Coal dust and algae can help meet future energy needs

[South Africa] A new fuel, Coalgae, produced from a combination of waste coal dust and algae, could save SA up to 40% of its crude oil imports.

Ben Zeelie and his team at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) combined coal dust with algae to form neat, clean-burning briquettes. When heated up, they produce high-quality crude oil — an invention that is science at its best.

“The trigger that led us to Coalgae was completely accidental,” says Prof Zeelie, who heads a research-and-development institute at NMMU in Port Elizabeth, called InnoVenton.

“We were experimenting with growing algae in plastic bags, when we noticed that some of it had leaked out the bags and formed a concentrated algae cake. It got us thinking and we figured that if we bind the algae cake with coal dust, we could come up with a new fuel.”

When heated up to about 450°C the briquettes produce a high-quality crude oil and a solid, clean-burning fuel. Picture: SUPPLIED
When heated up to about 450°C the briquettes produce a high-quality crude oil and a solid, clean-burning fuel. Picture: SUPPLIED

They have produced a new product that is a breakthrough in clean-burning fuels.

Together with his team of academics, postgraduate and postdoctoral students, it has taken Prof Zeelie five years to perfect Coalgae, and to ensure they can produce it economically and at scale.

The team is conducting the final consistent production runs to confirm the economics of the product for take-off agreements. Organisations in the US, China, France and Indonesia are interested, and Prof Zeelie says that they are looking at an international licence.

 

Photo: Coalgae is produced by growing algae in ponds stacked with bioreactors. The microalgae slurry is then mixed with coal dust and formed into briquettes. Picture: SUPPLIED

View original article at: Coal dust and algae can help meet future energy needs

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