From Carbon to Carbon

A Conversation with David E.Y. Sarna, CEO, WoodallTech; and Dan Simon, President and CEO, Heliae; hosted by Glen Hiemstra, Founder,

DSarna: Clearly fossil fuels are a depletable resource. Replace fossil-based fuels with a renewable, environmentally safe energy. Try to leave the world a better place than how we found it.

GH: What happened to the hydrogen future?

DSarna: People forgot that there was so much hydrogen in the ocean and you can’t boil them all. Rather than concentrate on using hydrogen as a useful fuel, they decided to tackle an excessively complicated systems integration project where most underlying technologies hadn’t been invented yet.

There are some really neat practical applications

DSimon: Why do people laugh about algae? Enough of the market either doesn’t know anything about algae or knows that it’s too far down the line.

We don’t count on government for anything. We’ve grown to know they won’t help. Want to start on high value adds: jet fuels, etc. Our business concept is $80/barrel oil. If we can’t, we’re not going to go into that market.

Dog foods, cat foods, fertilizer, feed, food, others are using algae now. The market is expanding. Fish oil is unsustainable: crushed fish, which get their oil from eating algae. We’re taking out middle man.

Salmon who eat corn for protein do not have same amino acid profile. The nutrients you need from eating salmon won’t be there.

Mars, Inc. takes a 25 year outlook. Get together once a year to look at the next 25 years. Most recently, got together to say,

GH: Proctor and Gamble are converting forklifts to hydrogen fuel cells. Is this a turning point?

DSarna: It’s clear that the industry’s reaching a tipping point. People are experimenting with all kinds of things driven by H. Unfortunately, almost all of the hydrogen going into these things is made from filth.

Simon Hackett: By using Al to split H out of water, you’re moving electric energy back into Al. You’re using scrap Al, but is there enough of that to do this?¬†After the process, what do you do with your Al?

DSarna: Overabundance of scrap Al. Most of it winds up being buried. Right now, we’re using first grade scrap Al. Working with cans, post consumer waste will require more work with the industry to change their varnishes, etc.

Originally believed that the only thing to do was to smelt the Aluminum hydroxide back down to Al. Now, we’ve started to use a limited amount of free energy. In OR, hydraulic water plants over produce at certain hrs of the day. Initially, we thought we’d put smelting plants near these free energy producers.

But in the short term, Woodall discovered that if you heat the Al hydroxide and heat it, you’re left with very pure Al oxide, which is exceedingly valuable in pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, etc.

Robert Anderson: Anything to hydrogen from algae?

DSimon: We have scientists working on that area, but we’re not focusing on that effort.