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State Energy Officials Inspect ODU Algae-Biodiesel Project

State Energy Officials Inspect ODU Algae-Biodiesel Project

Two top Virginia energy officials visited Old Dominion University and the adjacent Virginia Initiative Plant (VIP) wastewater treatment plant on Friday, Feb. 29, to inspect an alternative energy pilot project that converts algae grown in wastewater into biodiesel fuel.

Preston Bryant, the state's secretary of natural resources (second from left), and Steve Walz, the senior advisor to Gov. Timothy Kaine for energy policy (center), were in Norfolk to learn more about the work of the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC), which is directed by ODU geochemist Patrick Hatcher (left) and headquartered on the Norfolk campus.

ODU scientists and engineers working with VCERC have pioneered an algae-to-biodiesel conversion system in which algae strip nitrogen and other potential pollutants from effluent as they grow. The harvested algae are then converted by means of a proprietary chemical process into a biodiesel fuel that is more environmentally friendly than petroleum diesel.

In December, the ODU team installed three tanks on a rooftop of the VIP facility into which wastewater is pumped and algae can grow. The researchers are trying to maximize the oily output of algae and streamline the conversion process to get the cost of their alternative fuel as low as possible.

The VIP, which is just southwest of the campus, is a facility of the Hampton Roads Sanitation District.

Also pictured are Mohammad Karim, ODU vice president for research (second from right) and Sam Gosn, the VIP manager (far right).

This highlight was posted on: March 6, 2008

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