Thursday, March 05, 2009

Algal Fuel Research and Development Continues

Algae can potentially produce ten times more oil per acre than any of the common oil seed crops such as soy, rape, maize, or sunflower. And it will be able to do that in the desert, using salt water, municipal wastewater, and/or agricultural wastewater as its growth medium. Energy will come from the sun, and fertiliser from CO2 -- sometimes sequestered CO2 pumped directly from fossil fuel power plants.
“Making biodiesel from algae removes the issue of competing land use because the facilities would not be established on land that might otherwise be used to grow food and the algal farm has a very low environmental impact in comparison to crops that are grown for biodiesel,” Dr Beer said.

“Our study also found that the establishment of a 500 hectare algal biodiesel plant in a rural area might create up to 45 jobs and provide opportunities to diversify in the agricultural sector.”
Local and regional algal biofuels facilities can produce fuels at the local level for local use, and provide employment in the growth, harvesting, extraction, and refining of the oils. Solid high-protein residue can be used as part of an integrated fish farming operation for further employment and local revenues -- as well as food production.
Aurora Biofuels is using a combination of biotechnology and engineering techniques to bring the cost down, said Walsh.

Although it is not genetically modifying algae, it is breeding salt water algae strains optimized for yielding large amounts of oil. It has also developed a method, derived from the waste water treatment industry, for harvesting the algae without having to fully dry it out, a method that is more energy efficient, Walsh said.

The drop in oil prices--now below $50 a barrel--has also made it more difficult for biofuels. Walsh said that the company expects that it can produce a commercially viable product with the price of oil at $50 a barrel and some regulations that put a price on carbon dioxide pollution. _cnet
Lower oil prices have discouraged the more timid investors away from the bioenergy field, but smarter investors understand that when energy prices begin to rise again that it is those who are pre-positioned to take advantage who will be able to grab market share the quickest.



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