By Renewable Energy Focus Staff
OriginOil, which develops technology to extract oil from algae, has developed a real-time control network to supervise continuous algae harvesting operations at very large algae production sites.
Code-named Green Stick in research (see diagram) the network will be installed at Australian algae producer MBD Energy’s power plant test site. There it will connect with MBD’s own growth control system to integrate operations with OriginOil’s Single Step Extraction technology as well as downstream concentration and separation processes.
OriginOil recently filed for patent protection of the new control technology, which aims to simplify the complex task of computerising an intelligent control system.
According to the company, the process of measuring and controlling the interactions critical to large-scale algal production, including algae growth, dewatering, flocculation, cell lysing and oil recovery, has so far been accomplished with little automation. It says this only becomes necessary once systems become sufficiently developed and are ready for continuous flow operations at commercial scale.
The system is managed by a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA) which finally connects the biology and engineering with high throughput process control.
Paul Reep, OriginOil’s Senior Vice President of Technology, says: “Anyone harvesting algae at large scale has to deal with literally hundreds of variables in real time. That’s why we built this dynamic system that can adjust harvest settings on the fly.
“Being able to supply our SCADA with an array of comprehensive real-time information about water chemistry, and quantifiable data about what the algae cells are doing, is absolutely critical to optimize our processes, and will help keep us on track with our development goals.”
OriginOil says the new supervisory network will also reduce the number and skill requirements of human operators. It says that minimising personnel is not only good for cost control and ensuring process quality but that it is also good for algae, minimising cross contamination and remediation costs.