Monday, October 26, 2009

Old batteries converted into oil and electricity

W2 Energy's motto: Garbage is a renewable resource

File this joint venture under: We Use Every Part of the Pig but the Squeal. Not literally, of course, but that's close to the results of an arrangement between battery recycler Toxco and W2 Energy, a developer of mass-to-energy technology. I like W2 Energy for its ingenuity and scrappy, start-up enthusiasm.

W2 Energy will process 600 tons of carbon cake and plastic generated at Toxco's British Columbia recycling plant and convert it into electricity and ultra low sulfur diesel... on a 45-foot tractor trailer bed brought to the site... using a plasmatron and even an algae bioreactor. (Composite photo above shows some of these components.) It sounds like an unlikely engineering contraption, but it's an idea designed to make a profit out of waste. And there sure is plenty of raw material around in our society for them to convert into oil, electricity and dollar bills.

Toxco strips the metal out of old batteries and sells it, but, to this point, has sent the shredded battery cases to the landfill. Until W2 Energy came up with its "win/win proposition," according to Kathy Bruce, vice president of Toxco Canada.

In short, W2 Energy's mass-to-energy plant converts the hydrogen, oxygen and carbon in the battery waste into electricity and liquid fuel that can be used by Toxco. Carbon and nitrogen oxides normally generated by combusting the waste will be captured in W2 Energy's Sunfilter bioreactor where algae will grow on the flue gases. The algae is then put through the same process as the battery waste ad turned into more fuel and electricity. For a look at the complete process, go to the flow chart on their web site.

As long as there's garbage, W2 Energy will keep generating energy and fuel. The company claims the following feedstocks can be converted with its technology:
  • coal,
  • municipal solid waste,
  • agricultural waste,
  • human and animal waste,
  • tires and plastics, and
  • medical waste.

The feedstocks are converted into syngas, using patented low temperature, non-thermal, plasma-based reactor technology. That mouthful allows the mass-to-energy plant to run at a low cost and turn a profit, according to company's web site. In addition, the company claims that its technology is modular and scaleable, and that up to 10,000 tons per day of any hydrocarbon feedstock can be processed.

Finance Info

W2 Energy, Inc., (PINKSHEETS: WTWO), is incorporated in Nevada and trades on OTC. It employs 10 people and has an estimated market cap of $1.871 million as of Oct. 21, 2009. On Oct. 22, common stock as trading between $0.0153 and $0.0164. The stock has a 52-week low of $0.0016 and a 52-week high of $0.046. The high came in early August 2009, after W2 Energy announced completion of the second phase of a licensing Agreement with Alpha Renewable Energy of India, and that the company had successfully completed a commercial scale algae bioreactor. In recent months, the stock price has traded in the $0.015 to $0.20 range.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Basic Science of Algae Oil

Part 1 of Algae Oil Analysis Report

Before beginning an analysis of algae oil, I believe it is important to understand at least some of the basic science. In this way, an investor has the means to better evalutae different cultivation and production methods of various species of algae. In addition, she can compare algae oil with other biofuels, in terms of yields and cost efficiencies.

One of the ironies of biofuels and fossil fuels is that both involve the production by living plants of biomass through the process of photosynthesis. (1) The difference, of course, is a few milllion years. Fossil fuels contain carbon that has been out of the carbon cycle for eons. When it combusts, the carbon is released as carbon dioxide (CO2), and thus upsets a delicate balance in our atmosphere. (2) Climate scientists attribute this "late" release as one of the major causes of global warming.

Since biofuels and fossil fuels are almost identical in chemical make-up, biofuels such as algae oil also release CO2 into the atmosphere when they combust. The difference is that since algae oil was recently living, the CO2 also was only recently taken out of the atmosphere during photosynthesis. In essence algae oil is CO2 neutral and does not add to CO2 to the environment. Of course, it also doesn't reduce the amount of CO2, as many wind power, geothermal and tidal power advocates are quick to point out. Nor, of course, do the aforementioned, although they are not part of the carbon cycle.

One of the distinct advantages of algae is that almost the entire organism can use sunlight during photosynthesis to produce biomass. (3) The amount of lipids, or oils, produced varies with each specie, with some approaching 50% lipid concentration. Algae produce lipids for energy storage in the form of triacylglycerides (TAGs). TAGs are converted into bio-diesel through a process called transesterifcation, in which the TAGS, in the presence of simple alcohols and a catalyst, produce the fuel. This bio-diesel fuel has most of physico-chemical properties of petroleum diesel fuel. (4)

To be competitive with fossil fuels, however, biofuels need to equal or surpass the costs of producing fossil fuels. Many feel that algae is the most promising prospect since it is able to produce more biomass per acre-year than any other plant under consideration. Algae also has the added advantage of not being a plant used in the production of food, such as the conversion to ethanol of corn, a feedstock for cattle. Despite this promising start, there are cultivation and production challenges that must be overcome. I will discuss these challenges in Part 2, but the difficulties center around finding an algae strain with "a high lipid content and fast growth rate that isn't too difficult to harvest, and a cost-effective cultivation system." (5)

(1) Biomass, Wikipedia.
(2) Biomass, Wikipedia.
(3) Algae fuel, Wikipedia.
(4) Algae FAQ, Sustainable Green Technologies, Inc.
(5) Algae fuel, Wikipedia.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Links to Recent Work

Samples of my recent work:

Boost your ad dollars now, cash in later - continue to budget dollars toward advertising even during a recession.

Blogs boost interest in your business - build a sense of community between your clients -- current and prospective -- and your company.
Green, as in go for it - feature on environmentally sound building materials and techniques.

One Type of Boat that IS Selling: Rescue Craft - feature on rescue, fire and patrol boat industry.

Megayachts in miniature - profile of a new boatbuilder of motor yachts.

Virtual trade show nets real-world success - marine electronics wholesaler takes trade show online.

Online training: one answer to labor crisis - round-up feature on marine industry courses offered online.

Harnessing the power of email marketing - Pro Shop column on advantages and cost effectiveness of email marketing for the small woodshop.

For my resume, visit my profile at LinkedIn.