CO2 Emissions from Cement Plant to Produce Biomass

by | Apr 15, 2010

StMarysCementPlantPond Biofuels plans to capture a cement plant’s carbon emissions to grow and harvest high-value biomass from algae, reports Inhabitat. The nutrient-rich algae will be used to fuel the cement plant’s kilns and truck fleet.

Cement makers are one of the largest carbon-emitting industries, contributing five percent of global emissions, which is only exceeded by the steel and oil refinery sectors.

Pond Biofuels plans to use some of that generated CO2 by growing algae next to Ontario’s St. Mary’s cement plant. The cement plant has already built a CO2 pipeline from its main facility to the biofuel company’s $4 million algae-growing demonstration facility, which absorbs the CO2 using algae from the nearby Thames River, reports Biofuels Digest.

The company will also use industrial waste heat from the cement plant to dry out the algae before turning it into a biofuel.

The two project partners received funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence.

At first glance, a new study suggests that overall CO2 emissions created during the process of producing biofuel from algae may be worse than other materials such as corn, canola (rape-seed) or switch grass, which means that replacing fossil fuels with algal fuels could cause an overall increase in carbon emissions, according to Chris Rhodes, director of Fresh-lands Environmental Actions, in a Forbes blog.

The U.S. Algal Biomass Organization claims that the study, published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology, contained “faulty assumptions” and was based on “grossly outdated data.”

However, Rhodes said the report is positive about making fuel from algae as long as nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients aren’t added in their mineral forms and the CO2 isn’t injected into the system such as being produced elsewhere and transported as a compressed gas.

The analysis indicates that if the production of algae is combined with a wastewater treatment strategy, so that the nitrogen and phosphorus are removed from it by the algae, and fed with CO2 from smokestacks, most of the environmental burdens from growing algae are offset, Rhodes said.

Other companies like Calera are instead trying to clean up the cement industry’s CO2 emissions by using a manufacturing process that captures and stores CO2, while decreasing the amount of emissions associated with making the cement.

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