Biofuel and algae

I’ve been prattling on a lot lately about the risks of using food as fuel; i.e. the growing of food crops which are then diverted for the production of biofuels such as biodiesel and ethanol.

Something I made mention of briefly in one of my posts was the possibility of algae being used for the production of biodiesel as an alternative. When I first read about this a while back, it seemed that it was a bit of a pipe dream as the point was made in most of what I read that it may not be viable to produce algae biodiesel in commercial quantities.

That may no longer be the case.

In fact, there’s the possibility of attacking global warming *and* the rapidly approaching fuel crisis using these simple organisms.

Algae range from single-cell to multicellular organisms, including seaweed. Some species of algae have up to a 50% oil content – and this oil is suitable for biodiesel purposes. Algae also digests carbon dioxide, the gas mostly responsible for global warming.

With the oil content of algae being so high, it’s been suggested that this source could generate up between 30-60 times the amount of oil per acre than food crops such as soy beans and corn.

Other interesting aspects of algae derived biofuel is that it is non-toxic, biodegradable and contains no sulfur.

Some experiments being carried out are using the emissions from coal fired power plants to “feed” the algae. The algae convert the carbon dioxide into oxygen and oil. It’s pretty amazing stuff. We can use many of our existing carbon dioxide spewing processes to help create the fuel of the future.

I still see a lot of debate as to whether open-air pond cultivation can achieve anywhere near the rates that have been produced in enclosed systems, but there’s certainly been encouraging developments as the associated technologies have evolved over the past couple of years.

Of course, we shouldn’t pin our hopes just on algae to continue satisfying our rampant fuel addiction, we need to attack it from the other end also – consumption. And that’s not just up to the vehicle makers, but us as individuals.

Given all the developments in biodiesel, I’ll certainly be seriously considering a diesel engine in the next vehicle I purchase as biodiesel can be used in engines made for crude oil diesel with little or no modification.

Learn more about Biodiesel Production from Algae and how it stacks up against other alternative fuel sources.

Another good resource for further research is