Kodiak will play a key role in innovating ways to produce biofuels from seaweeds

  • Author: Laine Welch
  • Updated: 21 hours ago
  • Published 21 hours ago

Alaska seaweed crop could turn into a growing segment of the mariculture industry.

Kodiak is at the center of a inhabitant push to produce biofuels from seaweeds.

Agents from the U.S. Power Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy recently traveled to the isle to meet with a team of academics, scientists, businesses and local growers to foresee the first steps of a bicoastal pilot project to modernize methods to mature sugar kelp as a fuel source.

The project is bankrolled by a $500,000 concession to the University of Alaska Fairbanks through a new program called Macroalgae Probing Inspiring Novel Energy Resources. It has funded 18 projects to lay open new tools to help the U.S. grow into a “world leader” in production of macroalgae (seaweed) as fossil, chemical feedstock and animal feed.

“By further developing this untapped resource, the U.S. could in the final analysis produce enough seaweed to handle as much as 10 percent of our sought after for transportation fuel,” according to an ARPA-E release. The group estimates the U.S could put on at least 500 million dry metric tons of macroalgae per year, which could accede about 2.7 quadrillion thermal units of liquid fuel.

“The inimical economic zone of the U.S. oceans (out to 200 miles) is equivalent in size to the state’s whole land area,” said Marc von Keitz, ARPA-E program Mr Big. “Right now we are at the very early stage and it is a very manual, artisanal group operation. If we want to make large quantities so it is relevant for energy, we desperate straits to think about how we scale it up.”

In 2014, the world produced 25 million wet metric tons of seaweed at the end of ones tether with a combination of wild harvesting and highly labor-intensive farming techniques. In the know operations are not capable of supporting a viable seaweed-to-fuels industry.

“The vision is to take a demonstration on the east and west coasts showing that we can grow altogether fields of seaweed in a way that is efficient and cost effective with petroleum and other zip enterprises,” said Alaska project leader Mike Stekoll, a biochemistry professor at University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau.

The key ocean tests will be conducted by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Tradition in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

“We are not sure yet what the final design will be, but it will-power be scalable to any size. These trial areas would probably be a unite hundred meters long and 50 or so meters wide,” Stekoll mentioned.

Kodiak’s role, in collaboration with the Alaska Fisheries Development Basis, will be to figure out the most cost-effective way to grow, harvest and transport beneficent amounts of sugar kelp based on technologies applied in the fishing effort.

“One of the things that intrigued us is that you have this very prepared fishing industry and experts who have done a lot of creative and innovative proceedings on a wide variety of vessels,” said von Keitz. “We want to take that aptness and see if we can apply it to macroalgae. I think it’s a big opportunity.”

“We are not going to get there in two or three years,” he combined. “What is important is have a long-term vision and to develop stepping stones toward rise.”

Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweed is one of Alaska’s first stepping stones. This year the inconsequential growing operation by Stephanie and Nick Mangini produced the state’s blue ribbon successful harvest of 15,000 pounds of sugar and ribbon kelp on a 1-acre package.

“It is so cool be a part of revolutionizing the way seaweed farming is done. These ‘out of the box’ fan tests will really make it happen,” said Stephanie Mangini.

Surrender of the overall project will be to assess hazards to navigation and other capacity obstacles in offshore and near shore operations.

As far as feelings of “not in my backyard,” Stekoll said some lodgings in Alaska are more receptive than others.

“Kodiak is one of the places that greets the value in this sort of enterprise,” he added.

Salmon protections proceed

The meter, pushed by the group Stand for Salmon, would update state laws for the primary time since statehood in 1959.

“I was delighted,” Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, answered in response to the reversal.

Stutes, who also chairs the House fisheries commission, introduced a similar measure last year as House Bill 199, the Insubordinate Salmon Legacy Act.

She said the pending voter initiative will “intensity up” action by Alaska policymakers in next year’s legislative session, prominently, those on the senate resources committee who she claims are “adamantly opposed” to any move that mightiness curtail or cut taxes on oil and gas development.

“My intent is not to put any resource out of business,” Stutes said. “My intending virtually is if you are going to develop a resource, you have to maintain clean habitat for our salmon. It may instruct additional permitting, but we can work together.”

The judge’s ruling could placid be appealed by the state. Meanwhile, proponents must organize to gather practically 32,000 voter signatures to put the salmon protection measure before voters next November.

It is attainable that legislative action could pre-empt that need.

“I swear by that if we get something through the Legislature, the initiative won’t appear on the ballot,” Stutes remarked.

Kodiak crab comeback?

For the first time since 2013, Kodiak crabbers weight be able to drop pots for Tanners in mid-January.

“I’d say it’s the best chance we’ve had in the hold out five years,” said Nat Nichols, area shellfish/groundfish director at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak.

Crab stocks essential reach strict number thresholds before a fishery is allowed to release. Preliminary data from the summer survey indicate two Kodiak quarters might have enough legal-sized males — the only crabs that can be engaged — to allow for a fishery.

“We will be looking very closely at the southwest and east side to see if we can get to an exploitation status that we are comfortable with and also gets us above that least 400,000-pound harvest guideline,” Nichols said.

The survey indicated slight improvements at Chignik and the South Peninsula, but Nichols said no Tanner fisheries compel open there.

It takes Tanner crabs six to seven years to reach a admissible, 2-pound size. Nichols said he believes Kodiak has a shot at a tight-fisted fishery for the next two years.

“After that, it looks like we capability have a gap for a year or three before we get to the next recruitment pulse that will-power lead to a fishery,” he said, adding that there are encouraging emblems for the future.

“We are seeing a good bit of small crab in the water again this year,” he thought, “but they are several years out from being legal.”

Fish and Quarry will announce the fate of a 2018 fishery on Nov. 1.

Laine Welch is a commercial fishing notion columnist based in Kodiak. Reach her at [email protected]

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