Monday, April 28, 2008

Big Algal Biodiesel and Backyard Ethanol

Some algal biodiesel researchers are claiming the potential to produce 100,000 gallons of algal biodiesel per 1 acre of land area.
Valcent Products, claims they can grow algae to produce oil yields of 100,000 gallons per acre. That’s the upper range of estimates I’ve seen for algae production—an absolutely phenomenal amount of oil—which Valcent attributes to their ‘high density vertical bioreactor’ system.
That certainly sounds ambitious, and good luck to Vertigro!

Just as interesting, perhaps, is the potential to make your own fuel ethanol in your backyard, using a home ethanol processor.
Mr. Butterfield thinks that the MicroFueler is as much a game changer as the personal computer. He says that working with Mr. Quinn’s microelectronics experts — E-Fuel now employs 15 people — has led to breakthroughs that have cut the energy requirements of making ethanol in half. One such advance is a membrane distiller, which, Mr. Quinn says, uses extremely fine filters to separate water from alcohol at lower heat and in fewer steps than in conventional ethanol refining. Using sugar as a feedstock means that there is virtually no smell, and its water byproduct will be drinkable.

...Mr. Quinn says that as of January this year, under the North American Free Trade Agreement, he can buy inedible sugar from Mexico for as little as 2.5 cents a pound, which puts the math in his favor. While this type of sugar has not been sold to consumers, E-Fuel says it is developing a distribution network for it. __NYT__via_Earth2tech
The main obstacle to energy solutions is the government. Politicians and regulators appear determined to keep the US mired in "political peak oil."

Occasionally, I only half-jokingly suggest that we should use politicians (and trial lawyers) as feedstock for unlimited thermochemical production of energy. It is difficult to see how most of them would ever make a beneficial contribution to humanity any other way.

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