Saturday, April 17, 2010

Algal Fuels a Better Use of Land than Other Biofuels?


The map shows relative land areas to supply the US with fuels from different bio-sources, using today's technologies. But technologies will change to provide increased yields at lower costs. Besides, what kind of a moron wants to depend upon only one form of energy?

It is important for advanced western nations to develop a healthy energy mix -- not to rely on any one form of energy as a primary energy supply. That is why it is folly to push for only one form of new, clean, sustainable energy. It is wise to develop multiple energy sources -- such as algal and other microbial fuels, biomass energy, enhanced geothermal, clean nuclear, domestic gas, clean coal, domestic oil, and unconventionals such as oil shales and oil sands.
"We estimate the pricing of our diesel products at as little as $30 per barrel," says Bill Sims, CEO of Joule Biotechnologies, a bioengineering firm focusing on the renewable biofuels market. "The big prize is to be competitive with fossil fuels, not with other biofuels."

How It Works
His firm's "Helioculture" technology takes their genetically engineered organisms—to protect their intellectual property they won't name them, but Sims says they are "algae-like"—and exposes them to sunlight and carbon dioxide in what look like solar panels.

The organisms then secrete diesel, along with other usable chemicals.

Sims is aiming high. He estimates his technology can take a large share of potential $1-trillion markets in diesel and related chemicals.

...As a fuel crop, algae stacks up well against other biofuel feedstocks currently in production or in development.

A report from cleantech research firm Greener Dawn on the sector says most algael biofuels firms working on products now expect to get 4,000 to 6,000 gallons of fuel per acre.

Joule's Sims says his firm is targeting annual output of 15,000 gallons per acre.

By comparison, corn-based ethanol produces about 400 gallons of fuel per acre, its cellulosic ethanol counterpart up to 800 gallons per acre and soybean biodiesel a mere 40 gallons per acre, according to research from Sandia National Laboratories cited in Greener Dawn's report.
Of course, it is easy to make claims, and not so easy to back them up. Nevertheless, given that most informed observers do not expect algal fuels to make a dent in world fuels supplies until 2020, that gives algal (and other microbial fuels) companies ten years to deliver.

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