Dr. Ron Lacey, Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering
Texas A&M University - College Station
Phone: 979-845-3967
Fax: 979-862-3442


Dr. Ron Lacey is a Professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas where he has been on the faculty since 1992. For the past five years his research focus has been on the cultivation and processing of algae for biofuels. He is a co-PI in the NAABB consortium and serves as one of the task leads for Harvesting & Extraction. He has also served as a co-PI on sponsored algae research from the U.S. Air Force, DARPA, and General Atomics and has consulted on techno-economic analysis of algal systems. Dr. Lacey has a strong interest in an engineered systems approach to algae production systems and has developed a techno-economic model based on discrete event simulation. Dr. Lacey currently teaches the capstone engineering design sequence for undergraduates (BAEN 479, & BAEN 480) and a graduate course in statistical design of experiments (BAEN 661). He also co-advises the Aggie Pullers, a student organization that participates in the annual ASABE Quarter Scale Tractor Design Competition. Dr. Lacey is a member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ASABE) and is a registered professional engineer in the state of Texas. Dr. Lacey earned his Ph.D. (1992), M.S. (1979), and B.S. (1977) in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Prior to his academic career, Dr. Lacey worked for The Pillsbury Company in Minneapolis, MN; Pizza Hut, Inc. in Wichita, KS; and Taco Bell, Inc. in Irvine, CA as a research engineer and engineering manager.

2012 Growing Texas Conference

October 4: Bio-Based Fuels Panel

Microalgae production offers many advantages over conventional biomass production technologies including higher yields, use of otherwise nonproductive land, reuse and recovery of waste nutrients, use of saline or brackish waters, and reuse of CO2 from power-plant flue-gas or similar sources. As this technology begins to move from the laboratory to the pilot plant, scaling of processes and potential bottlenecks become a concern in an effort to determine the actual production output. Areas such as the operation of support ponds, the effect of process time delays, the effect of seasonal growth and evaporation, and the costs to cultivate algae are pivotal in determining the potential for the development of algal-based bio-fuels. The production system developed within Texas AgriLife Research is based on sequenced batch cultivation in open raceway ponds followed by a starvation and finishing period to increase the lipid content of the algae. Simulation results indicate that operating costs are dominated by the cost of nutrients, the cost of electricity to maintain raceway velocity for mixing and temperature control, the cost of labor, and the cost of water, with water needed primarily to make up losses to evaporation. Recommendations to reduce operating costs for an algal-based biofuel process are to utilize free nutrients, utilize natural convective mixing, develop cultivation ponds that are deeper to reduce evaporation, and automate to reduce labor. This presentation will provide an overall description of the processes, identification of the issues and the current state of the technology, and an assessment of the odds for success.