United States Patent: 8586353

As regular readers know, when it comes to the now undeniable, irrefutable fact that Carbon Dioxide - - as is fortuitously co-produced during our economically essential combustion of Coal in the generation of truly abundant, truly reliable and truly affordable electric power - - is a valuable raw material resource which we can reclaim, and then convert into such seemingly-needful things as liquid fuels, plastics manufacturing raw materials, and substitute natural gas Methane, we, here, much prefer to expose the direct, chemical routes for accomplishing such transmutations, like that seen most recently, and for one example, in our report of:  

 

US Air Force April 3, 2014, CO2 to Synthetic Fuels | Research & Development | News; concerning: "United States Patent Application 20140093799 - Devices and Processes for Carbon Dioxide Conversion into Useful Fuels and Chemicals; Date: April 3, 2014; Inventors: Richard Masel, IL, Brian Rosen, DE, Wei Zhu, IL; Applicant (and presumed eventual Assignee of rights): Dioxide Materials, Inc., Champaign, IL; Abstract: Electrochemical devices for converting carbon dioxide to useful reaction products include a solid or a liquid with a specific pH and/or water content. Chemical processes using the devices are also disclosed, including processes to produce CO, ... CH3OH (Methanol), CH4 (Methane), ... acrylic acid, diphenyl carbonate, other carbonates, other organic acids and synthetic fuels. Government Interests: This invention was made, at least in part, with U.S. government support under U.S. Air Force contract No. FA8650-12-M-2249. The government has certain rights in the invention".

However, we have also acknowledged the potential for using various photosynthetic, and even what might be termed "electrosynthetic", organisms to act as "biocatalysts", as it were, to effect the same end of consuming Carbon Dioxide, as harvested from whatever convenient source, and of converting that Carbon Dioxide into a wide variety of organic compounds, including, even, hydrocarbon fuels and fuel alcohols.

Our United States Government acknowledges such "bio"-potentials, as well, as seen for one example in our report of:

USDOE Algae Recycle More CO2 and Produce Ethanol | Research & Development | News; concerning: "United States Patent 7,973,214 - Designer Organisms for Photosynthetic Production of Ethanol from CO2 and Water; 2011; Inventor: James Weifu Lee, TN; Assignee: UT-Battelle, LLC, Oak Ridge (Operators of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the United States Department of Energy); Abstract: The present invention provides a revolutionary photosynthetic ethanol production technology based on designer transgenic plants, algae, or plant cells. The designer plants, designer algae, and designer plant cells are created such that the endogenous photosynthesis regulation mechanism is tamed, and the reducing power and energy acquired from the photosynthetic (processes) are used for immediate synthesis of ethanol directly from carbon dioxide and water. Government Interests: This invention was made with Government support (and, the) Government has certain rights in this invention".

And, herein we learn that a company that is already, as we'll see via some supplementary links, practicing the bio-conversion of Carbon Dioxide into, as in the USDOE's above "US Patent 7,973,214 - Designer Organisms for Photosynthetic Production of Ethanol from CO2 and Water", fuel alcohol Ethanol, has also established proprietary technology to effect such CO2-to-Ethanol conversion on an industrial basis, and which proprietary CO2-to-Ethanol process they have trade-named "Direct To Ethanol"(r).

Comment, and additional links, follow and are inserted within excerpts from the initial link in this dispatch to:

"US Patent 8,586,353 - Closed Photobioreactor System for Continued Daily In Situ Production of Ethanol from Genetically Enhanced Photosynthetic Organisms with Means for Separation and Removal of Ethanol  

Patent US8586353 - Closed photobioreactor system for continued daily In Situ production of ... - Google Patents

Date: November 19, 2013

Inventor: Robert Paul Woods, et. al., FL

Assignee: Algenol Biofuels Switzerland GmbH, Zug, CH

(Note, as can be learned via the following link, Algenol is headquartered in Florida. The Swiss office named above is a subsidiary company established to manage the international licensing of Algenol technology:

Facilities/Locations | Algenol Biofuels.

Further, as can be learned via:

About Algenol | Algenol Biofuels; Algenol is a global, industrial biotechnology company that is commercializing its patented algae technology platform for production of ethanol and other biofuels. Algenol’s patented technology enables the production of the four most important fuels (ethanol, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel) for around $1.27 per gallon each using proprietary algae, sunlight, carbon dioxide and saltwater at production levels of 8,000 total gallons of liquid fuel per acre per year.  Algenol's technology produces high yields and relies on Algenol’s patented photobioreactors and proprietary downstream separation techniques for low-cost fuel production.  These novel, low-cost techniques have the added benefit of consuming carbon dioxide from industrial sources, not using farmland or food crops and being able to provide freshwater. Since its founding in 2006, Algenol’s scientists and engineers have invented and patented a broad array of new technologies for producing advanced renewable transportation fuels. The Company’s technology is a unique two-step process that first produces ethanol directly from the algae and then converts the spent algae biomass to biodiesel, gasoline and jet fuel. It is the only renewable fuel production process that can convert more than 85% of its CO2 feedstock into the four most important fuels";

they have developed CO2 utilization technology in addition to the "Direct To Ethanol"(r) process, have a pilot facility up and running in Florida, and, the lead named inventor of "US Patent 8,586,353", Robert Paul Woods, appears to be the CEO.

We have previously reported on Algenol, as in:

Plant Would Let Algae Turn Carbon Dioxide to Fuel | Research & Development | News; concerning the "New York Times" article: "Plant Would Let Algae Turn Carbon Dioxide To Fuel", which article says, in part: "Dow Chemical and Algenol Biofuel, a start-up company, are set to announce Monday that they will build a demonstration plant that, if successful, would use algae to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol as a vehicle fuel or an ingredient in plastics. "The ethanol would be sold as fuel, the companies said, but Dow’s long-term interest is in using it as an ingredient for plastics, replacing natural gas. The process also produces oxygen, which could be used to burn coal in a power plant cleanly, said Paul Woods, chief executive of Algenol, which is based in Bonita Springs, Fla. The exhaust from such a plant would be mostly carbon dioxide, which could be reused to make more algae....".

Other reports, accurate or not, have it that Dow has dropped out of the relationship, even though the plant is up and running. Our understanding is that Dow's primary interest was in helping to establish a market for some of their durable and transparent polymers, which would be used to construct the bioreactors.

If you explore the included links, and others that are made available when you do, you will discover that Algenol claims they are now making Ethanol, from Carbon Dioxide, at a cost under $1.50/gallon.

And, yes, that is a good, very good, price for Ethanol, especially since it's made from Carbon Dioxide, and, also especially since, as can be learned via:

United States Patent: 4138440; "United States Patent 4,138,440 - Conversion of Liquid Alcohols ... with ... ZSM-5 Catalyst; 1979; Assignee: Mobil Oil Corporation; Abstract: The conversion of alcohols and ethers to gasoline boiling constituents with HZSM-5 catalyst in a fluid catalyst system is arranged for reactant plug flow wherein the reaction temperature is controlled by the heat of vaporization of liquid reactant charged to the reactor. ... A method for converting a chemical reactant selected from the group consisting of methanol, ethanol, ether derivatives of lower alcohols and mixtures of alcohols and ethers to gasoline";

no matter what we make it from, Ethanol can be converted rather directly into Gasoline. And, so successful is Algenol's CO2-to-Ethanol pilot facility, that, as seen in: 

Algenol CEO proves jobs are there, says expansion will be outside Lee County » Naples Daily News; "Algenol CEO Proves Jobs Are There, Says Expansion Will Be Outside Lee County; February 24, 2014"; 

they are already planning an expansion into full-scale, industrial production. However, not all is rosy. There are a lot of news articles "out there" about Algenol's Florida CO2-to-Ethanol facility, with public arguments about the amount of employment such facilities bring, how much public support should be given to them, and where future facilities will be built. One thing that doesn't seem to be in question, though, is that they are feeding CO2 to their bioreator, and their bugs are converting that CO2 into fairly low-cost Ethanol.)

Abstract: The invention provides a device for growing genetically enhanced aquatic photoautotrophic organisms in a stable culture, causing the organisms to produce ethanol, and then separating, collecting, and removing the ethanol in situ.

Claims: An apparatus for the production of ethanol and oxygen from carbon dioxide and water comprising: a. a chamber comprising a flexible, visible-light transmitting plastic sheet; b. a lower part of the chamber suitable for containing a liquid phase reaction volume comprising water, ethanol, and a photosynthetic organism; c. an upper part of the chamber comprising an inner surface on the upper part upon which gas phase ethanol and water condense to form a liquid product and comprising a head space volume comprising carbon dioxide, water, and ethanol, wherein the molar ratio of ethanol to water in the liquid product is higher than in the liquid phase reaction volume and the head space volume is disposed above the liquid phase reaction volume; and d. a plurality of troughs that collect the liquid product, wherein the troughs are disposed on the inner surface above the liquid phase reaction volume and are supported by a flotation device in contact with the liquid phase reaction volume.

The apparatus ... wherein the troughs are formed from flexible light transmitting plastic sheet, wherein said troughs are supported by air added to the void formed in the construction of each trough to serve as the flotation device in contact with the liquid phase reaction volume (and) wherein the flexible, light-transmitting plastic sheet comprises high density polyethylene of thickness 4 to 8 mils (and) wherein the flexible, light transmitting plastic sheet comprises high density polyethylene treated with an antifog agent.

Background: The invention provides for an outdoor large volume closed photobioreactor for the continued daily production of ethanol, or other biofuels, from a culture media comprising genetically enhanced cyanobacteria or algae and in situ separation of the ethanol from the culture media through evaporation by sunlight and subsequent condensation and ethanol collection in the photobioreactor. The photobioreactor apparatus is designed to allow for the maintenance of a high density, stable culture comprising genetically enhanced cyanobacteria or algae and separation and collection of the ethanol produced in the same apparatus. An embodiment of the invention is the removal of ethanol from the culture comprising genetically enhanced cyanobacteria or algae, wherein the ethanol is removed from the culture without additional external manmade energy. 

Summary: (One) embodiment is a method of producing ethanol comprising: placing a culture of genetically enhanced organisms capable of producing ethanol selected from the group consisting of algae, cyanobacteria in a photobioreactor, wherein said photobioreactor comprises: a) a lower part of the chamber containing an aqueous growth medium, and b) a gas-filled upper part of the chamber, wherein the upper part of the chamber is at least partially translucent; allowing ethanol to evaporate from growth medium into the upper part of the chamber; condensing the evaporated ethanol; and collecting the condensed ethanol in one or more collection troughs".

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There is quite a lot more to it, of course; and, reading of the full document, as accessible via the links, is encouraged. The good people at Algenol have put a lot of thought into how to efficiently produce fuel alcohol Ethanol from Carbon Dioxide via the mediation of Algae/Cyanobacteria. In a general way, the invention is similar in general concept to the bioreactor described in our report of:

Penn State May 14, 2013, CO2 to Methane | Research & Development | News; concerning: "United States Patent 8,440,438 - Electromethanogenic Reactor and Processes for Methane Production; Date: May 14, 2013; Inventors: Shaoan Cheng and Bruce Logan, State College, PA; Assignee: The Penn State Research Foundation, University Park, PA; Abstract: Increasing competition for fossil fuels, and the need to avoid release (of) carbon dioxide from combustion of these fuels requires development of new and sustainable approaches for energy production and carbon capture. Biological processes for producing methane gas and capturing carbon from carbon dioxide are provided according to embodiments of the present invention which include providing an electromethanogenic reactor having an anode, a cathode and a plurality of methanogenic microorganisms disposed on the cathode. Electrons and carbon dioxide are provided to the plurality of methanogenic microorganisms disposed on the cathode. The methanogenic microorganisms reduce the carbon dioxide to produce methane gas, even in the absence of hydrogen and/or organic carbon sources";

wherein bacteria that can use low-level electricity as an energy source, in a way analogous to the use of light herein by "cyanobacteria" and/or algae, can, in a reactor fed low-levels of electricity, convert Carbon Dioxide into substitute natural gas Methane.

But, as far as Algenol's CO2-consuming, Ethanol-producing bugs themselves go, they were defined and described some years ago, as can be learned via:

"United States Patent: 6699696 - Genetically Modified Cyanobacteria for the Production of Ethanol

Patent US6699696 - Genetically modified cyanobacteria for the production of ethanol, the ... - Google Patents

Date: March 2, 2004

Inventors: Robert Paul Woods, et. al., Canada

Assignee: Enol Energy Incorporated, Toronto

(As can be learned via extended documentation accessible via the above "Google Patents" link, the Florida and Switzerland company, Algenol, Assignee of rights to our initial subject, "US Patent 8,586,353 - Closed Photobioreactor System for Continued Daily In Situ Production of Ethanol", is the legal successor to the now-defunct "Enol Energy"; and, rights to all intellectual property once assigned to Enol are now owned by Algenol Biofuels and it's subsidiaries.) 

Abstract: Genetically modified cyanobacteria for the production of ethanol, the constructs and method thereof.

Claims: A process for producing ethanol which comprises the steps of: culturing in a culture medium Cyanobacteria and providing said Cyanobacteria with a source of carbon, said Cyanobacteria containing a construct comprising DNA fragments encoding pyruvate decarboxylase and alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes obtained from the Zymomonas (organism, as specifed); accumulating ethanol in the culture medium ... ; and isolating the accumulated ethanol. 

A process for producing ethanol ... wherein said Cyanobacteria are Synechococcus (as specified).

A process for producing ethanol ... wherein said Cyanobacteria are produced (as specified, and) wherein said Cyanobacteria are Synechococcus PCC 7942.

Background and Field: This invention relates to the genetic modification of Cyanobacteria for the production of ethanol. In particular, this invention relates to the genetic modification of Synechococcus by incorporating the genetic information encoding for pyruvate decarboxylase (pdc) and alcohol dehydrogenase (adh). 

Ethanol is an energy source which is particularly attractive because it can be utilized with little waste. In addition, ethanol derived from living organisms is an attractive alternative to petroleum based fuels because it is a renewable resource. 

This invention relates to the genetic modification of Cyanobacteria for the production of ethanol. In particular, this invention relates to the genetic modification of Synechococcus by incorporating the genetic information encoding for pyruvate decarboxylase (pdc) and alcohol dehydrogenase (adh). 

In the present invention, it has been found that Cyanobacteria can be successfully genetically engineered to utilize a direct flux of carbon from CO2 to 3-phosphoglycerate, and to pyruvate, to produce a quantifiable amount of ethanol as opposed to utilizing a glycogen reserve as is done under anaerobic and dark conditions. 

It has been found that Cyanobacteria can be genetically modified by introducing genes encoding for the enzymes pdc and adh to produce ethanol. In particular, a pathway for ethanol synthesis has been created in Synechococcus PCC 7942, and this pathway is directly coupled with photosynthesis."

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And, to summarize, we can grow the "Cyanobacteria" specified by the above "United States Patent 6,699,696 - Genetically Modified Cyanobacteria for the Production of Ethanol" in the bioreactor specified in

"United States Patent 8,586,353 - Closed Photobioreactor System for Continued Daily In Situ Production of Ethanol", feed them Carbon Dioxide, as recovered from whatever handy source, and those "Cyanobacteria" will produce for us relatively inexpensive fuel alcohol Ethanol.

Now, the bugs do require some genetic modification, which seems to be well understood and is disclosed in detail in the full text of "United States Patent 6,699,696 - Genetically Modified Cyanobacteria for the Production of Ethanol".

As we've said before, we're not real fond of the concept of diddling with living organisms' genetic codes.

And, compared to straightforward, purely-chemical processes for the conversion of CO2 into Ethanol, like that seen in our report of:

The USDOE and New Jersey Convert CO2 into Ethanol | Research & Development | News; concerning: "United States Patent Application 20130199937 - Reducing Carbon Dioxide to Products; 2013; Assignee: Liquid Light, Inc., NJ; Abstract: A method reducing carbon dioxide to one or more products may include steps (A) to (C). Step (A) may bubble said carbon dioxide into a solution of an electrolyte and a catalyst in a divided electrochemical cell. The divided electrochemical cell may include an anode in a first cell compartment and a cathode in a second cell compartment. The cathode may reduce said carbon dioxide into said products. Step (B) may adjust one or more of (a) a cathode material, (b) a surface morphology of said cathode, (c) said electrolyte, (d) a manner in which said carbon dioxide is bubbled, (e), a pH level of said solution, and (f) an electrical potential of said divided electrochemical cell, to vary at least one of (i) which of said products is produced and (ii) a faradaic yield of said products. Step (C) may separate said products from said solution. Government Interests: This invention was made with government support under Grant DE-SC0006201 awarded by the Department of Energy. The government has certain rights in the invention.  A method for reducing carbon dioxide to one or more products (including) ethane, ethanol, (etc.)";

we don't know why one would want to put up with the mess; although, as seen in:

Celanese Co-Gasifies Coal and CO2-Recycling Algae | Research & Development | News; concerning: United States Patent Application 20130144087 - Co-Gasification of Aquatic Biomass and Coal; 2013; Inventor: Dinesh Arora, Texas; Assignee: Celanese International Corporation, Irving, Texas; Abstract: The invention also relates to co-gasification processes for forming syngas from aquatic biomass and a fossil fuel. In one aspect, the invention is to a process for producing syngas (and) relates to integrated processes for producing industrial chemicals, such as alcohols, carboxylic acids, esters, aldehydes, olefins and polymers from such syngas. A process for producing syngas, comprising: (a) introducing aquatic biomass, a fossil fuel, water and oxygen to a gasifier and forming syngas comprising hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide; and: (b) feeding aquatic biomass with carbon dioxide derived from the syngas.  The process ... wherein the aquatic biomass that is introduced into the gasifier comprises the aquatic biomass that is fed in step (b) (and) wherein the aquatic biomass is selected from the group consisting of microalgae (and) wherein the fossil fuel comprises coal";

we just might be able to find something productive to do with the excess "Cyanobacteria", aka "microalgae", biomass that will accumulate, as the bugs grow and reproduce in their "Bioreactor", consuming Carbon Dioxide and Sunshine, and excreting useful quantities of fuel alcohol Ethanol.


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