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Biodiesel Algae

High yielding biodiesel algae would be a great for the biodiesel industry and the world. It would spell the end of global warming and the end of dependence on foreign oil. There have been a number of scams where companies and people have sold the algae dream to investors. Beware if anyone says they have workable algae to biodiesel technology.

biodiesel algae 1During the 1970s in response to the Energy crisis, President Carter funded The Aquatic Species Program, under the auspices of the newly established US Department of Energy. The purpose of this program was to find an alternative source of energy from that of petroleum products.

When the program was eventually terminated by the Clinton administration in 1996, a considerable amount of work had been done on investigating various algae species. The program built and ran Open Raceway Ponds in which algae species were cultivated.

A number of conclusions came out of the study. One of the more important of these was that with the prices of oil falling in the 1990s, production of algae biodiesel would cost more than twice that of then current petroleum diesel costs. It was not viable economically at the time. (If only they could have foreseen the price of crude oil now!).

The study also indicated that substantial land, water and carbon dioxide existed to support the technology.

To quote from the report: "Algal biodiesel could easily supply several quads' of biodiesel -- substantially more than existing oil seed crops could provide. Microalgae systems use far less water than traditional oil seed crops. Land is hardly a limitation. 200,000 ha could produce one quad of fuel".

One of the conclusions of the program was that engineering was not a limitation. Open pond designs, given the low cost requirements associated with fuel production, were considered to be ideal. More sophisticated production systems were considered to be not cost-effective, and unnecessary. This was a positive conclusion form biodiesel algae.

biodiesel algae 2One of the challenges of an open system is that cross-contamination of algae species can occur. As a result a number of proprietary sealed systems are under development by various companies. Most of these systems are quite capable of producing algae, but the costs involved are far higher than that of an open pond system.

Currently, as of 2011 there is no company that is producing biodiesel algae commercially on a large scale.

Algae research has a number of challenges.

  1. Discovering an algae species, which is hardly, high in oil yield and which is easy to grow. There are thousands of species of algae throughout the world, finding one which is best suited for the production of oil for biodiesel is a daunting task.
  2. Finding the best way in which to grow the algae is also a challenge. Whether to grow it in an open pond system or sealed reactors. Contamination potential, yields, aerating, feeding and nutrition are all important contribution factors. Algae need a source of CO2 to thrive. Locating an algae plant close to a power station would be a great source of nutrients for the algae as well as cleaning up a lot of the greenhouse emissions.
  3. Extraction methodologies need to be commercialized. Algae have tough cellular structures which make them hard to convert into oil, unlike conventional oil crops which are relatively easy to extract.

Government-subsidized research for algae production has become a thing of the past. Nowadays, all algae research is funded by private companies. The result of this is that there is little if any interchange of ideas. For this reason, it is hard to determine the exact status of algae research in the world. However, it is fair to say that if any company were to successfully commercialize algae production, they would become the Saudi Arabia of the 21st century.


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What Other Visitors Have Said

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High School Science Fair Project Turned into a Business 
I started researching algae about 2 years ago. I became very fascinated about algae's capability to sequester carbon dioxide. This deep interest eventually …

Co2 generator/converter/extractor 
I wonder if there exist a device there can extract co2 from the air so it can be pump into the algae bassin

Algae as an biodiesel Not rated yet
It is really astonishing to know that Bio diesel can be obtained from microorganisms too. I always thought vegetable, seeds, animal fat were the only source. …

Matt Not rated yet
I found this article in Forbes Magazine back in August. I believe the article gives a good indication as to where the Algae Biodiesel is going. http://www.forbes.com/ …

crabb freebird Not rated yet
having read the article it just confirms to me two things one is the importance of fighting to stop the destruction and loss of species because we dont …

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