Algae, smoke and mirrors aren't tricks for Veridium

By | May 01, 2006
Veridium Corp. is on the fast track to helping zap the few existing waste streams from dry mill ethanol plants. Last year, the company unveiled its Corn Oil Extraction Systems, which extract oil from stillage during the evaporation process. Now Veridium is targeting effluent from ethanol plants, turning carbon dioxide into food to help new ethanol and biodiesel feedstocks flourish.

In its charge to build and contract out its algae-exploiting systems, Veridium isn't without its competitors. What distinguishes Veridium's new BioStarch Recirculation System from similar concepts is the company's patent-pending design, using a bioreactor developed by Ohio University's Dr. David Bayless, Veridium Chairman Kevin Kreisler told EPM. Bayless' reactor is based on technology from Oak Ridge National Laboratories, which includes mirrors and growth media of optic fibers and plastic to harness more sunlight in the presence of effluent carbon dioxide to maximize the growth rate of the algae.

The special strain of blue-green algae—discovered in Yellowstone National Park while Montana State University microbiologist Keith Cooksey was researching organisms in the park's hot springs—doubles in mass several times a day, said David Winsness, CEO of Veridium's industrial design division.

"Our design is different than GreenFuel Technologies' system," Kreisler said, referring to GreenFuel's emissions-to-biofuels systems. "Ours uses more sunlight."

According to Winsness, these particular algae are made of 94 percent starch and 6 percent oil. The starchy biomass can be harvested regularly on-site and can be used to give a participating ethanol plant "appreciable double-digit gains [in ethanol production output]," Kreisler said. The algae's oil can then be sold to biodiesel producers.

"The challenge is to cost-effictively build and install these reactors adjacent to ethanol producers," Winsness said. Successfully demonstrating the ability to convert this recovered, starchy biomass into ethanol on-site adds to that challenge he said. However, plants are already showing interest (see Business & People, page 24).

Veridium intends to make it simple and cost-effective for ethanol plants to adopt this technology. "The financing package would be similar to that of our corn oil extraction systems," Kreisler told EPM. "We would provide the equipment with the option of purchase or rental. Our preference is to finance and deploy the technology with as little [investment] as necessary required from the adopting plants."

Veridium is currently constructing the first commercial pilot version of the BioStarch Recirculation System, which is being built on a flatbed trailer, allowing mobility of the unit as the company demonstrates the technology at various locations—a sort of "plug and play" system, Kreisler said.

By June, the company anticipates identifying one or more early adopters of the technology. "We're eager to have the opportunity to enhance ethanol production in America," Kreisler said. "Our plan is to roll out a series of technologies aimed at increasing the efficiency of existing infrastructures and broadening feedstock choices for both clean fuels, ethanol and biodiesel."

Veridium will be presenting its new technologies at the International Fue Ethanol Workshop & Expo in Milwaukee, Wis., in June. For more information on the conference, visit www.fuelethanolworkshop.com