Many people from individuals to research firms are searching for an alternative fuel source that is renewable, economical, and environmentally friendly as fossil fuels are fast depleting. Biodiesel refers to any diesel-equivalent biofuel made from renewable biological materials such as vegetable oils or animal fats consisting of long-chain saturated hydrocarbons. It can be used in pure form (B100) or may be blended with petrodiesel at any concentration.
Biodiesel made from crops such as corn and soybeans is one such alternative that most people are aware of. However, there are problems with biodiesel made from crops namely the displacement of food and the amount of crops it takes to produce a gallon of oil.
Algae to biodiesel has been widely discussed among experts in the petroleum industry and conservationist who are looking for a more reliable and safer source of energy that is both renewable and easy to attain.
One of the key reasons why algae are considered as feedstock for oil is their yields. DOE (Department of Energy, Gov of USA) has reported that algae yield 30 times more energy per acre than land crops such as soybeans, and some estimate even higher yields up to 15000 gallons per acre. Aside from keeping the earth clean and free form pollution, these algal biodiesel fuels help to utilize a resource that is available in abundance just waiting to be harnessed and exploited.
A Detailed Process of Biodiesel from Algae:
Once the algae are grown and harvested, there are a different ways of extracting the oil. Which ever method is used for extraction, the resulting product is a vegetable oil called 'green crude', similar to crude oil, which is further transformed into biodiesel fuel through a process called 'transesterification'.
Refer for more details: http://www.oilgae.com/algae/oil/biod/tra/tra.html
In this process the green crude is mixed with a catalyst, such as sodium hydroxide and an alcohol, such as methanol, resulting in biodiesel mixed with glycerol. The mixture is cleaned to remove the glycerol, a valuable by-product, leaving pure algal biodiesel fuel, which is similar to petrodiesel fuel. Although algal biodiesel and petro diesel are similar, there are a few significant differences between their properties.
See more on the algal biodiesel properties: http://www.oilgae.com/algae/oil/biod/char/char.html
- Algae represent the third generation feedstock for biodiesel, with much higher yields than second generation crops. Algae yields could reach a high of 50 T of biodiesel per hectare year against 2 T for competing feedstock such as jatropha.
- On lipid content alone (in terms of % of lipid content by dry weight), algae are only as good as biomass from most other oil crops. Where algae score over all other oil crops is in the biomass yield for similar areas.
- Oil yields per unit area from algae can be even further increased, and it is one of the most researched topics currently.
- Making biodiesel from algae oil is similar to the process of making biodiesel oil from any other oilseed, and thus can quite possibly use the same conversion processes to produce biodiesel.
- Pilot projects suggest that algae could provide over 10,000 gallons of biodiesel per hectare per year.
- Recent advances in oil extraction and transesterification could reduce the cost of making biodiesel from plant oils.
- There could be some challenges in converting algae oil into biodiesel using the transesterification process owing to the high FFA of algae oil.
To know more about Biodiesel from algae, buy our Comprehensive Oilgae report with its recent updated version. List of contents under this topic include
- Introduction to Biodiesel
- Growth of Biodiesel
- Biodiesel from Algae
- Why Isn’t Algal Biodiesel Currently Produced on a Large-scale?
- Oil Yields from Algae
- Oil Extraction from Algae (change in index)
- Converting Algae Oil into Biodiesel
As with anything worth having, there is some work to be done to perfect the process of optimizing the algae biodiesel manufacturing process. Algae tend to grow very quickly, but yield very little oil when left to grow naturally. They can be genetically altered for additional oil output, but this will slow down the growth process.
Over time, these kinks will be worked out through research efforts. Considering the early stages and multiple possibilities of algal biodiesel, the research being performed on its cultivation and benefits or shortcomings comprises a long list. Selecting high-oil content strains, and devising cost effective methods of harvesting, oil extraction and conversion of oil to biodiesel options head up lists for many researchers.
See more about the research on algal biodiesel: http://www.oilgae.com/algae/oil/biod/res/res.html
- Biodiesel Production from Microalgae
- Biodiesel from Algae oil
- A Look Back at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Aquatic Species Program: Biodiesel from Algae
- Biodiesel Fuel Production from Algae as Renewable Energy
- The Potential for Biofuels from Algae
- Algae Farming for Biodiesel with Nanotechnology
- Algae as a Biodiesel Feedstock: A Feasibility Assessment
- The Economics of Micro-Algae Production and Processing into Biodiesel
- Genetic Engineering of Algae for Biofuel Production
- Indigenous Algae: Potential Factories for Biodiesel Production
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