Micro-algae production of sustainable biofuel coming
Two researchers say producing sustainable and economically viable biodiesel from micro-algae on a large scale will be feasible within 10-15 years. Technological innovations in this timeframe are expected to enlarge the scale of production threefold and cut production costs by 90 per cent.
Professor Ren? Wijffels and Dr Maria Barbosa from Wageningen UR (University & Research Centre) published their article in Friday?s Science, where they thoroughly explain how to reach the biodiesel goal.
They wrote that Europe should be able to become sustainably independent of fossil fuels and even generate sustainably sourced food by producing microscopically small algae in bulk in large-scale installations. The cultivation of algae could be done by extracting fertilisers (nitrogen and phosphates) from manure surpluses and wastewater, and CO2 would come from industrial remains.
Sunlight feeds algae, sustainably breeding biodiesel and almost limitless protein and oxygen. And because seawater can be used, fresh water use would be minimal.
Wijffels and Barbosa describe how based on calculations on energy consumption in transport in Europe, nearly 0.4 billion m3 biodiesel would be required to substitute all transport fuels. Micro-algae cultivation takes 9.25 million ha of land assuming a yield of 40,000 l of biodiesel per ha.
Algae beat agricultural crops like oilseed rape at converting sunlight and fertilisers into usable oily compounds, as full sunshine is not needed. It is thus possible to produce 20-80,000 l of oil per ha versus 1 ha of oilseed rape or oil palm generates only 1500 or 6000 l, respectively.
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