Here is a balanced article on the possibilities of (and problems with) algal biodiesel…Author: David Schneider, Magazine: American Scientist Online.
Summary & excerpts
1. …ethanol, which contains only two-thirds the energy of gasoline gallon for gallon, whereas biodiesel ends up being only 2 percent less fuel-efficient than petroleum-based diesel.
2. Conservationists have been warning that palm oil production poses a dire threat to the dwindling population of orangutans, for example, which exist in the wild only in Borneo and Sumatra.
3. Some varieties of algae can contain 50 percent or more oil, and grow much more rapidly than ordinary cultivars—with doubling times that can be as short as several hours.
4…challenges involved in devising a bioreactor that costs little and supports sufficient productivity that excessive land use is not a factor.
5. …productivities of about 100 grams of algae per meter squared per day (about three times what was demonstrated during the Aquatic Species Program) is needed to achieve commercial viability…
6. “It’s no real difficult feat to turn nutrients into algae,” says Kent SeaTech’s director of research, Jon C. Van Olst, “but how do you get it out of the water? They are almost impossible to harvest.”
7. “Growing algae is cheap…but certainly not as cheap as growing palm oil.”
8. …”In the laboratory, you can create some very efficient bioreactors, but it just isn’t scalable”…Asked whether biodiesel will ever be made this way: “Not from microalgae—I just can’t see it.”
Companies & individuals mentioned:
Cos/organizations: US EPA, US DoE & Aquatic Species Program, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Veridium Corp., GreenFuel Technologies, Kent SeaTech Corporation, John R. Benemann, Cyanotech Corporation
Persons: Michael S Briggs, David J Bayless, Isaac Berzin, Jon C. Van Olst, John R. Benemann, Gerald R. Cysewski
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