OMEGA Global Alliance
나사 오메가 프로젝트는 비영리재단인 "오메가 글로벌 얼라이언스재단"을 만들어 기후변화를 해결하는 대안마련과 이를 위한 수익사업을하여 재단에 공익사업을 하도록 지원하는 시스템을 만들고, 오메가 바이오퓨얼 인터내셔날이란 기업을 만들었다. 오메가바이오연료사는 실제로 엘지유를 대량생산하는 비지니스모델을 만들오 각국의 투자를 받아 오메가프로젝트를 대량생산 성공으로 이끄는 노력을 한다.
OMEGA Biofuels International will work with scientists at University of California Santa Cruz, University of California San Diego, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and NOAA to monitor the impact of OMEGA on the marine environment. All work will be conducted in accordance with requirements set forth by state and national regulatory bodies. OMEGA Biofuels International will work with relevant stakeholders to ensure that OMEGA Offshore Farm installations will not have a visual impact on shoreline communities and we will work with the Coast Guard to insure that we are not impacting commercial or recreational shipping or boating. OMEGA Biofuels International is a company to produce algae oil in offshore farm installations and on land.
OMEGA Biofuels International Leadership Team OMEGA Biofuels International, management team, board of directors, advisory board and scientific advisors are in the process of being formed. The Principle Investigator of the NASA OMEGA system, Dr. Jonathan Trent, Ph.D. Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, Ph.D. (former administrator of NOAA), Dr. Jerry Schubel, Ph.D. , CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific, Dr. Kathryn Schubel, Ph.D., Professor of Oceanography, Johns Hopkins University, Thomas Grimm, Andrew Grimm, M.D. Ph.D. , Mark Drawbridge, Senior Scientist at Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute, Mike Lawson, CEO, E-Green Technologies, and Peter Maher, Ph.D. former CTO of Northsail, Inc. form the core leadership team of OMEGA Biofuels International positions of leadership.
Results of Prior Research For the last ten years the Trent Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center has been engaged in a variety of innovative research projects, including studies of the limits of life and protein-based nanotechnology, receiving the NASA "Nano50 Award for innovation" in 2006. For the last three years the laboratory has been focused on biofuels projects with support from NASA, Google and the California Energy Commission. This research has led to the development of novel self-assembling enzyme scaffolds for enhancing the degradation of cellulose to produce ethanol and part of the team has shifted its focus to developing algae-based biofuels.
This algae team combines the PI’s and colleague interest and extensive research experience in the open ocean (Trent, Phillips, Buckwalter) with years of expertise in NASA life support systems in general and water purification in particular (Gormly), with extensive experience in lipid chemistry and algae cultivation (Embaye and Hu: collaborator ASU) and systems engineering (Baertsch). It was through the combined expertise of this special team with support from Google that the OMEGA system emerged.
Algae Cultivation Growing algae, like growing other plants, to produce biofuels requires sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, a host of nutrients and micronutrients and environmental conditions (temperature, pH, stability) that are conducive to algal growth. In the OMEGA system, the requirement for sunlight is fulfilled by maintaining the modules at the surface of the ocean in a region known as the euphotic zone. The requirement for water, CO2, nutrients and micronutrients are provided from municipal wastewater and from other onshore waste stream sources. Municipal wastewater effluent is rich in all the nutrients needed for algal growth. One of the primary purposes of sewage treatment is to decrease the levels of nutrients (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorous, and micronutrients) to prevent destructive algal blooms at offshore wastewater outfalls.
It is well known that microalgae can provide a significant amount of carbon-neutral, sustainable biofuels when they are grown in large quantities under economical conditions (Benemann, 2007; Hu and Richmond, 1996). In the prior art, there have been no algae cultivation methods that meet the requirements of scale and economics for biofuels. The OMEGA system for cultivating algae in was developed at NASA Ames Research Center.
The OMEGA system consists of lightweight, flexible bioreactors constructed of inexpensive transparent plastic with sections of semi-permeable membranes for gas exchange and dewatering. The membranes are filled with nutrient-rich primary or secondary treated wastewater from municipal sewage treatment facilities. The sealed enclosures are inoculated with lipid-producing freshwater algae (mono-cultures or communities).
These strains of algae, cultivated to thrive under local conditions and out-compete weed species in the wastewater. The plastic enclosures are deployed on the ocean surface, then filled with effluent, and inoculated with algae. The algae grow to high concentrations and then harvested, and the biolipids are refined into biofuel. The remaining biomass is processed into produce feed pellets for Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture (IMTA) that will be associated with OMEGA Offshore Farm operations located in the Bohai Sea near Qingdao, along the Shandong Peninsula.
Algae are currently cultivated around the world for biofuel, food, vitamins, nutraceuticals, edible oils, fertilizer, animal feed and other products (Benemann, 2007). These commercial ventures cultivate algae on land, using either open ponds or closed bioreactors (Richmond, 1986; Belcher and Swale, 1988; Borowitzka and Borowitzka, 1988; Lembi and Waaland, 1988; Grobbelaar et al., 1990; Fiedler et al., 2003). The growth of algae has been studied for many years and has been shown to be a complex function of light levels, pH, temperature, and nutrient levels and to vary from one species to another (Richmond, 1988; Vonshank, 1993; Hu, 1998). The lipid content of algae varies within and between algal species, and can be greater than 20% of dry-weight of the biomass under some conditions (Christi, 2007).
The combination of algal growth rates, their oil content, and the ease of extraction of oils from algal biomass make them of keen interest in the field of biofuels. Although it is estimated that algae may produce as much as 100x more oil per acre than land plants such as soy, there are difficulties in growing sufficient quantities of algae at low enough costs to be used for biofuels (Christi, 2007). The current land-based cultivation systems have proven to have severe limitations. Open ponds have problems with contamination by weed species and requirements for prohibitively large quantities of freshwater due to evaporation. Closed bioreactors do not have problems with contamination by weed species or evaporation since they are closed, but they have problems with large capital costs, and technical problems associated with temperature control of cultures and mixing.
A closed land-based bioreactor will act like a small greenhouse, which requires cooling. Both open ponds and closed bioreactors of various designs have environmental issues associated with their use of water and land and the logistics associated with transporting nutrients to sites that are far from municipalities. The issues of land use, cooling, mixing, water, and some of the costs can be addressed by moving the algae cultivation system offshore, using closed photo-bioreactors made of inexpensive, flexible plastic enclosures developed by NASA. These enclosures are referred to as "OMEGA Pods" or "oPods™." Land is not an issue in offshore farms. Cooling and temperature control are provided by the heat capacity of the surrounding ocean. Mixing is aided provided by wave energy. The need for freshwater in the OMEGA system is provided by using wastewater from municipal wastewater treatment facilities.
The OMEGA system provides tertiary treatment of the wastewater before it is released into the ocean. The OMEGA tertiary treatment of wastewater helps avoid large algae blooms that harm local ecosystems. By contrast, the algae that will be harvested for biofuels will allow the nutrients in the wastewater to be processed into aquaculture food pellets or recovered and returned to land as soil fertilizer. Algae take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. This carbon can be sequestered if the algal remains, after the oils are removed, are pyrolysed to produce biochar, a beneficial soil remediant.
By putting effluent in OMEGA modules to grow algae, the algal growth remain under control while the algae are utilized both for producing biolipids that are later refined into biofuels and for recovering the nutrients from the effluent that can be used for aquaculture and agricultural fertilizers. Therefore, the effluent water that will be released from the OMEGA modules into the ocean will have lower nutrients and a diminished impact on the marine environment as compared to the water that is currently being released from most municipal outfalls. It is known that the addition of CO2 to cultures enhances algal growth. In the OMEGA System CO2 is added to the cultivation system. The culture partially utilizes atmospheric CO2 and partially uses CO2 that would have otherwise been released into the atmosphere from land-based sources.
There are a number of possible sources for CO2, including near-shore power plants that are situated near wastewater treatment facilities and the wastewater treatment facilities themselves. It is common for wastewater treatment facilities to produce methane from the sludge produced by their system and for the methane to be transformed into CO2 by burning the methane to produce electricity. OMEGA Biofuels International will optimize the addition of CO2 using a feedback controller that will monitor the pH in the OMEGA modules. NASA laboratory results indicate that algae growth can be controlled using CO2 and pH, and that this can be used to manipulate lipid induction and %age of dry weight lipids.
Algae growth results In NASA laboratory experiments with Chlorella vulgaris, a freshwater alga known to produce oil and a potential species for OMEGA Biofuel operations, C. vulgaris was grown in OMEGA modules (20cm x 20cm x 1, 2, or 3 cm) made of clear polyurethane with or without FO membranes. The growth conditions included using primary or secondary effluent from the Sunnyvale wastewater treatment facility or using a standard laboratory medium for growing algae (BG-11). With constant light (177 ft candles), constant stirring, and added CO2, cultures grown in OMEGA modules 2 or 3 cm deep did not exceed 2 grams/liter dry weight, indicating the cultures were light limited. Cultures grown in 1 cm deep OMEGA modules achieved 6 grams/liter, which is agreement with previously published work studying the effects of light limitations (Hu 1998).
OMEGA Membranes with wastewater inoculated with C. vulgaris algae. Mature yellow-brown algae culture is full of biolipids, ripe and ready to be refined into high grade biofuel. Figure 9 - Membranes use forward osmosis filters to dewater wastewater, concentrating nutrients to accelerate microalgae growth.
The enclosure consists of transparent plastic impermeable to CO2, O2 and H2O. The plastic is flexible enough to respond to wave action that provides mixing and thermally conductive to allow the surrounding water to provide temperature regulation. 2. Gas-permeable membranes inside the primary envelope function as a CO2 storage and diffusion system. The inflated ribs provide rigid structural elements, as well as buoyancy for flotation. 3. Patches of semi-permeable FO membranes on the outside envelope function as the dewatering system. The dewatering system utilizes the osmotic potential between the relatively fresh internal water and the salty water outside. This gradient between sewage (primary or secondary treated effluent) inside and seawater outside allows 90% to 95% dewatering of the algae cultures over the ten-day algal growth cycle. 4. Valves with tubing for filling and draining, as well as gas pressure-release-valves are integrated into each OMEGA module. These valves and tubing are made of lightweight, low-cost plastic. Figure 10 Algae growth and % biodiesel results in simulated ocean with both primary effluent and laboratory media. Note: biomass concentration scaled up 10x to correspond to % biodiesel. OMEGA modules have four operational elements, as outlined below:
The OMEGA module is a floating, clear, plastic enclosure with external FO membranes. Access and pressure-relief valves and internal CO2 bladders diffuse CO2 into the algae culture while providing flotation for the system (See Figure 4). The algae culture grows in the clear plastic enclosure using sunlight, nutrients from the effluent, and the nutrients and culture are concentrated by the FO membranes during the 7-14 days of cultivation. Culture maturation schedule depends on the amount of sunlight, water temperature, nutrient load and strain of algae.
The culture is harvested using pumps at the end of the growth cycle. OMEGA modules are refilled with effluent and recharged with CO2. The residual algae in the modules act as the innoculum for the next culture cycle. During the growth phase, the algae and the nutrients in the modules are concentrated or dewatered using FO membranes. This process is not a filtration or reverse osmosis (RO) process. Unlike filtration or RO membranes, which use high trans-membrane pressures and low shear environments, the conditions present in forward osmosis result in high tangential shear and low, instantaneous trans-membrane pressures (Cath et al., 2005, Herron et al., 1994). This allows FO membranes to function without fouling for long periods of time and process large volumes (Cath et al., 2005). The plausibility of using forward osmosis for dewatering algal biomass is based on extensive experience in the food processing industry (Petrotos et al., 1998; Bailey et al., 2000; Petrotos and Lazarides, 2001).
Forward Osmosis processing of dilute tomato juice and solids to make ketchup using FO membranes allows this process to proceed under conditions in which the same membrane in a pressurized RO configuration would cease to pass water immediately. Results in the laboratory indicate that forward osmosis and gas exchange membranes will function for >20 algal growth cycles and are expected to exceed 40 to 50 cycles, or greater than one year in operation. This remains to be tested under field conditions. OMEGA membranes are being designed to allow these membranes to function for well over one year. OMEGA modules are being designed to last at least two years, before they need to be replaced and recycled.
Environmental Statement OMEGA Biofuels International uses the OMEGA technologies as a highly profitable, triple-environmental benefit, payback system. In addition to producing biofuels, aquaculture feed, soil fertilizer, and other valued products, the OMEGA system functions as a wastewater treatment facility, and carbon sequestration system. In other words, OMEGA is one part product-oriented and two parts environment-oriented. The system's various products are environmentally friendly. The biofuel produced is carbon-neutral or carbon-negative, and the aquaculture feed and the fertilizer are made from nutrients recovered from municipal wastewater, such as phosphorus, nitrate, and ammonia, which are currently dispersed into coastal areas.
The recovery of these nutrients will both decrease the growth of dead-zones in coastal regions, support aquaculture operations and provide valuable fertilizers for the agricultural community. OMEGA Biofuels International will treat primary or secondary effluent with the efficiency of a combined bio-scavenging system and a microfiltration (MF) membrane process. The algae in the OMEGA system removes CO2 and inorganic nutrients from the wastewater. Pure water is drawn out of the OMEGA into the surrounding seawater by the FO membranes on its surface.
OMEGA Biofuels International will further develop this water purification technology into a cost effective desalination system). Forward osmosis is used to dewater the algae, making them easier to harvest. Simultaneously OMEGA Biofuels International will provide tertiary treatment of the wastewater at the quality level of MF systems. If the remains of the algal biomass (after removing the biofuel oils) is converted to biochar (an excellent soil amendment) the system is sequestering carbon and can be considered carbon negative, thereby eligible as an measurable greenhouse gas offset. Although the value carbon sequestration credits may fluctuate, the production of fertilizer or high-grade biochar provide alternative markets that are independent of carbon credit markets.
The currently immature carbon market structure would benefit from tangible commodities directly correlated to carbon credits such as biochar from algae that can be precisely measured and monitored independently and inexpensively. OMEGA Biofuel Offshore Farms operate in brackish or saltwater environments. They work quite well in habitats with fluctuating brine concentrations. This is of value in buffering the rates of change in saltwater marshes and estuary environments, particularly where low minimum flows are affected by semiarid conditions, such as in Central and Southern California, the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Here nutrient removal from wastewaters or surface water influent, which threaten coastal wetlands, can be improved OMEGA operations and should have a special appeal to environmental agencies and conservation organizations. Figure 12 - OMEGA Offshore Farms operate in saltwater where they prevent wastewater nutrients from damaging threatened, sensitive coastal wetlands
Potential Environmental Impacts Although the net environmental impact of OMEGA is expected to be positive, there are some important potential impacts that require careful attention and monitoring. The most obvious potential impact would result from disrupting the integrity of OMEGA membranes and the leakage of algae and secondary effluent into the surrounding ocean. The algae in OMEGA membranes will be freshwater strains that cannot survive in seawater. No genetically modified algae will be used, only natural strains. The water in OMEGA systems is secondary effluent that meets clean water standards for wastewater release.
Therefore, any leakage of effluent would not be a basis for concern. OMEGAs are modular. If one module (roughly 1 meter in diameter) fails, only a small amount of the total contained algae and secondary effluent would be released into the surrounding environment. Other potential impacts relate to the effect of OMEGA systems on ecosystem in the vicinity of their installation. The modular nature of OMEGA and the open spaces between modules minimize their impact. Spacing between modules allows sunlight to penetrate to the water below and provide access for marine mammals or other sea life to the ocean’s surface. The growth of algal seaweed on the underside of OMEGA membranes will be limited by the short times between harvesting the OMEGAs (7-14 days) by the cleaning off the attached plant communities during harvesting.