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Maryland business hopes to fight pollution with algae

The U.S. Department of Energy has been awarded grants to environmental projects aimed at growing algae for use as an alternative fuel for several decades, but a Maryland startup has devised a decidedly more unique use of the plantlike organism. If successful, experts say the company's efforts could have widespread repercussions.

The entrepreneurs behind HY-TEK Bio say that algae could be used to remove pollution from coal plants and other fossil fuel, effectively making the energy produced by such sources clean. The science behind the plan is relatively well-known -- algae feeds off carbon dioxide and can break down nitrogen dioxide, eliminating greenhouse gases and smog while outputting oxygen. Experts say the primary obstacles preventing power firms from using algae are the complicated logistics and hefty price tag of implementing such a plan.

HY-TEK plans to encourage power plants to adopt its technology by offering to repay them in 7 to 10 years with money it earns from secondary markets, including nutritional supplements and bio-fuels. The business's CEO said he expects HY-TEK to be earning revenue in approximately one year. "We're really close to commercialization," he explained. The four-year-old company is currently operating a pilot program at an energy-producing water treatment facility near Baltimore, an experiment that HY-TEK officials say has delivered promising results.

Some experts are unsure about algae's potential at such a large scale. One university professor who specializes in carbon management espoused concerns that HY-TEK's plan could flood markets by trying to sell such a high volume of algae-based goods. Another expert with the Maryland Clean Energy Center and close follower of HY-TEK was similarly concerned about the project's viability, but added that a business that could remove pollutants from the air in a cost effective way would be "very attractive" to investors and consumers alike. Amid discrepancies of opinion and complexities of moving forward, attorneys can manage risk and work with entrepreneurs to support expansion in sound and advisable ways.

Baltimore Sun, "A bid to clean the air with algae" Jamie Smith Hopkins, Aug. 04, 2013

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