Algae companies laud rule’s carbon reuse provision

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Algae companies are cheering changes in the Obama administration’s final Clean Power Plan that will allow them to cash in on power plant emissions.

In a shift from the original proposal, U.S. EPA’s final rule allows electric generating units to use algae and other carbon capture and utilization, or CCU, technologies as a means of complying with emissions reduction targets.

EPA also included new language in its final greenhouse gas standards for new power plants that establishes a mechanism for deciding whether utilization technologies can be used to achieve reduction goals.

“Today’s final rule is a clear message that carbon utilization can and should be included in state compliance plans,” the Algae Biomass Organization said in a statement. “It represents a huge gain for our industry and for the promise of carbon utilization, an idea that was not even considered by the EPA, Congress or the Obama administration a year ago.”

Algae companies need carbon dioxide to feed their microorganisms in order to make a wide variety of products, including fuels, animal feed and nutrition supplements. They’ve been eyeing power plant emissions as a possible source of that carbon dioxide.

EPA did not formally recognize CCU technologies in its original proposals to stem carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants.

The algae industry launched an aggressive campaign to get its technologies included in the final rules that included meetings with EPA, lobbying on the Hill, a petition and the launch of a website,, that allowed supporters to send letters to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

The industry has been selling CCU as more a more cost-effective and feasible method in the short term for capturing carbon dioxide from power plants than carbon capture and sequestration (see related story).

In the final Clean Power Plan, EPA said states can allow electric generating units to use qualifying carbon reuse technologies to reduce emissions as long as the technologies permanently isolate or displace the captured CO2 from the atmosphere.

The final New Source Performance Standards for power plants also released yesterday allow for case-by-case approval of CCU technologies.

“Potential alternatives to sequestering CO2 in geologic formations are emerging. These relatively new potential alternatives may offer the opportunity to offset the cost of CO2 capture,” EPA said in the new source standards. “These technologies not only show promise, but could potentially be demonstrated to show permanent storage of CO2.”

Florida-based Algenol LLC, which has developed technology to make renewable fuels by pumping carbon dioxide into hanging bags containing blue-green algae, said the new language would offer power plants an easier way for complying with emissions reduction goals.

“Our carbon utilization technology turns the economic and environmental liability of carbon pollution into low-carbon fuels and revenue for ratepayers,” said Algenol CEO Paul Woods. “It reduces the costs of emissions and improves our environment, creating a win-win for utilities and ratepayers.”