Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
Celina may harvest Grand Lake algae for energy if study goes well
By William Kincaid
The city of Celina may harvest the algae in Grand Lake to create methane gas and carbon dioxide if a proposed pilot study at the water treatment plant is authorized and found viable.
Celina Planning and Community Development Director Kent Bryan informed city council members on Tuesday night of what he called a drinking water source protection project.
If successful, Bryan says the plan could clean the lake, stabilize water treatment costs and lead to the creation of electricity and renewable bio-commodities.
The city is in negotiations with three companies that offer Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) - a technology that Bryan says would use tiny bubbles to cause silt and algae from incoming lake water to float to the top of the plant's concrete settling tanks.
The floating algae could be harvested and sent to a bio-reactor to be transformed into methane gas and carbon dioxide, which could, among other things, power a gas turbine and produce electricity, Bryan says.
Currently, plant employees use costly chemicals that settle the silt and algae to the bottom of the plant's concrete settling tanks, which then are pumped to ponds and eventually removed at an annual cost of $60,000, Bryan says.
Bryan wants to use DAF technology - which would be shipped in on a semitrailer - for a pilot study. Most likely, it would cost the city upwards of $40,000 to use the equipment for a four-month study period, he said.
Bryan said the city knows the DAF technology works.
Through the pilot study, the city could determine how effective the process is and if it also would remove suspended materials and dissolved organics - reducing the chemical, ozone and carbon costs of treating the lake water.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio EPA are philosophically on board with the city's plans, Bryan says.
No exact numbers were given on how much money the overall project would cost or possibly save the city in treatment costs in the future.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture - which Bryan says received funds from the federal stimulus package and likes drinking water improvement projects - could be a source of funding.
Bryan says the city could be eligible for a grant to finance 40 percent of the project, as well as a loan to pay for the remaining portion. Because the city is not considered a rural area, which is required for USDA funding, Mercer County would be the lead applicant for the grant, he says.
"It's something that we've been working on for a long time," Bryan says.
Bryan suggested the county's 60 acres of land on Fleetfoot Road be used for the bio-reactor, as well as dredged material from Grand Lake - a second part of the project that could lead to the creation of a salable soil.
Council members on Tuesday night seemed to be excited about the prospect, but some were concerned about the costs, specifically the initially $40,000 needed for the pilot study.
Some suggested asking ODNR to waive the city's $33,000 annual fee it pays for using lake water for drinking water as a means to fund the study.
Last November, Bryan had said the city along with Wright State University-Lake Campus was considering applying for a $3 million grant through Ohio's Third Frontier program to explore turning algae into oil, nutritional supplements and plastic. However, that application was never turned in because the main Wright State campus in Dayton was applying for a similar project, according to Bryan.
No action was taken on Tuesday night but Bryan said he would come back to council soon with additional information.
Celina has plans for going green:
The city of Celina could be on the verge of participating in the much hyped green movement in the U.S., says Celina Planning and Community Development Director Kent Bryan.
The possibilities include lowering water treatment costs, creating electricity, selling carbon credits to coal plants and transforming dredge material from the lake into a commodity.
But everything rests on the results of a possible pilot study of Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) - a technology where algae would be harvested from the lake and sent to a bio-reactor to be transformed into methane gas and carbon dioxide. Bryan says the technology is established and works.
Methane and carbon dioxide could be collected and used to create electricity, and perhaps even more lucrative, be used as carbon credits under President Barack Obama's proposed cap and trade system, Bryan said.
For instance, if big coal plants are mandated to either spend millions of dollars on updating their facilities to meet federal environmental standards or purchase carbon credits from others, they most likely would choose the later. Celina could possibly sell carbon credits based on the city making electricity from algae.
During the processing of algae into methane gas and carbon dioxide, residual solids also would be created as a byproduct.
The solids could be added to dredged material from Grand Lake to create a soil amendment, such as potting soil, Bryan says.
Bryan says the lake sediment contains no metals or contaminants and is essentially rich topsoil that has collected over the last hundred years.
The city also envisions a Celina Renewable Energy Center, a collaboration of public and private partnerships for the creation of energy independence.
Bryan says businesses could be enticed to the area, bringing with them new jobs, to take advantage of green, renewable energy sources.
For example, the U.S. Air Force is searching for new ways of producing bio-jet fuel.
Ultimately though, the city's three fundamental concerns would be stabilizing water treatment plant costs, creating a self-sufficient method of cleaning the lake and generating revenue from the bio-products of the process, Bryan says.
- William Kincaid