Algae-forestry, bioenergy mix could help make CO2 vanish from thin air

April 12, 2018 by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell University
Algae, pictured here under a microscope, may be a key to unlocking an important negative-emission technology to combat climate change. Credit: CSIRO

An unconventional mélange of algae, eucalyptus and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage appears to be a quirky ecological recipe. But, scientists from Cornell University, Duke University, and the University of Hawaii at Hilo have an idea that could use that recipe to help power and provide food protein to large regions of the world - and simultaneously remove carbon dioxide from Earth's atmosphere.

"Algae may be the key to unlocking an important negative-emissions technology to combat climate change," said Charles Greene, Cornell professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and a co-author of new research published in Earth's Future, by the American Geophysical Union.

"Combining two technologies - bio-energy with and storage, and microalgae production - may seem like an odd couple, but it could provide enough scientific synergy to help solve world hunger and at the same time reduce the level of greenhouse gases that are changing our climate system," Greene said.

Based on an idea first conceptualized by co-author Ian Archibald of Cinglas Ltd., Chester, England, the scientists call the new integrated system ABECCS, or algae bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. The system can act as a carbon dioxide sink while also generating food and electricity. For example, a 7,000-acre ABECCS facility can yield as much protein as soybeans produced on the same land footprint, while simultaneously generating 17 million kilowatt hours of electricity and sequestering 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

The ABECCS system's economic viability depends on the value of the nutritional products being produced and the price of carbon. Even without a price on carbon, microalgae production - in a fish-farming, aquacultural sense - is commercially viable today if the algae are priced as a fishmeal replacement in aquafeeds.

"In the future, as the price of increases, ABECCS has the potential to reduce in the atmosphere in an environmentally sustainable and profitable way," said Greene, who is a fellow at Cornell's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Explore further: Microalgae could play key role in relieving climate warming

More information: Colin M. Beal et al, Integrating Algae with Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (ABECCS) Increases Sustainability, Earth's Future (2018). DOI: 10.1002/2017EF000704

Related Stories

Microalgae could play key role in relieving climate warming

March 29, 2017

Think better living through marine microalgae, as it may become crucial to mitigate atmospheric greenhouse gases, reduce carbon dioxide emissions from commercial agriculture and steady the global climate, according to Cornell-led ...

Video: Developing carbon management solutions

July 20, 2017

Global consumption of fossil fuels is causing atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to rise to levels that threaten human and environmental sustainability. These gases warm the planet and negatively impact ...

Video: The carbon cycle

February 26, 2018

As part of the way Earth works as a system, carbon is continuously passed between the ocean, the land and the atmosphere. This involves a range of different processes, some of which can be observed by satellites.

Six energy companies call for carbon pricing

June 1, 2015

Six leading oil and gas companies Monday called on governments to put into place a carbon pricing system, saying this would be the most effective way of cutting the emission of greenhouse gases.

Recommended for you

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.