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It isn't easy being green. - Kermit the Frog

Algae Blooms - Threat and Solution

Solution

Due to various factors, RESTCo sees the accelerating growth of algae blooms as a risk to remote communities in terms of access to drinking water, food production, climate change, employment and possibly even export income.

In our search for a solution, we have established connections with several other companies, including Extreme Spill Technology (EST) and an experienced boat designer / builder to come up with an effective solution for harvesting and removing algae blooms.

The EST spill pickup technology was originally designed for oil spill response on large bodies of water - before the oil hits shore. The technology has been shown to pick up more than 93% of oil it encounters on the surface of calm water, and can also operate effectively in moderate seas. This patented technology has won international awards and been sold to the Canadian federal government (Canadian Coast Guard), who stated "the [EST] skimmer is an essential piece of response equipment that we maintain in Atlantic Canada". The same technology has proven effective at picking up cut aquatic weeds, because it will pick up anything that floats on water and which is smaller than the trash gate openings in the vessel hull - such as algae.

View EST Algae video shows model picking up aquatic weeds (58 MB, run-time 6 minutes)
(some information in Chinese - originally for China algae clean-up market)

Our small algae harvesting vessel boasts several unique and valuable features.

Basic Electric Side-wheeler boat platform
The image above illustrates the electric drive system, control console and open work deck. For clarity, it does not portray the EST collection tower and related equipment.

  • Because the EST collection system can pick up the thin layer of near-liquid algae floating on the surface effectively, it presents a major advantage over existing technology - we don't have to wait until the algae thickens into a mat to be able to remove it. This means we can attack and remove the bloom early, before it depletes the oxygen in the water column. As a result, the impact on aquatic plant and animal life is almost eliminated, and the algae can be harvested for aerobic composting, greatly reducing CO2e emissions.
  • The electric drive system does not pollute the environment where it is operating.
  • The paddle wheel system ‘steps over’ aquatic weeds and other marine life leaving them intact while harvesting the algae. By having paddle wheels on either side, the boat is highly manoeuvrable for effective operation in confined spaces (e.g., marinas, canals, harbours).
  • Not using a propeller for pickup operation increases effective operating time, as propellers are easily and quickly fouled in an environment characterized by heavy algae and aquatic weeds.
  • For operations in relatively calm waters, "Y" gates can be added to the front of the 2 hulls, increasing the effective sweep area of the vessel, and clearing the surface ahead of the paddle-wheels.
  • The operator never needs to come in contact with the algae, which is important as some algae types contain toxins. The algae is channelled below the vessel, picked up via gravity in the EST collection tower, and pumped into containment on the deck of the vessel. Because of the unique EST design, the amount of water collected is minimized. Once the container is full, the boat is taken to shore and off-loaded mechanically or using the vessel’s pumps. The algae can then be taken to an appropriate site for composting. Aerobic composting will avoid the production of methane (a potent greenhouse gas). Assuming the dried, mature compost from the algae is used to enhance soil for growing crops, the net greenhouse gas emissions from the algae harvesting, production and application of compost should be near zero (assuming short transport distances or transportation powered by biofuels or electric drive).
  • Future processing options could include a facility where the algae can be processed to produce liquid fuels and other by-products of value. (RESTCo has a long-standing relationship with Algepower, a leader in wastewater reclamation and biofuel production based on algae cultivation.) Addition of an outboard motor fueled by biodiesel can speed transiting operations to and from the work area (paddle wheels lift to reduce vessel drag in the water).

    Wheels Down Wheels Up

    The EST technology can be fitted to other boat forms, including conventional monohull workboats, barges, pontoon boats and catamarans. This flexibility in form factors means the EST vessels can be used for other activities when not required for algae collection (e.g., oil spill response, collecting micro-beads, nurdles and other small floating pollution items from bodies of water, fire-fighting, cargo transport, personnel transport, environmental monitoring, dive support, marine recovery, harbour or coastal patrol, etc.) Thus, the algae skimmer vessel can be easily and quickly deployed to other activities when not required for algae harvesting.

    Once the initial algae bloom has been harvested, RESTCo recommends the relevant water quality authorities work with WCI to improve and maintain the oxygen levels in the water, improving the overall water quality.

    RESTCo - working toward self-reliant, resilient communities and a better environment for all.

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