The Cost of Farming Algae as a Biofuel Must be Cut by About 90 Percent if it is
to Become Commercially Viable
Algae-based biofuel will become commercially viable! But the major obstacle ahead is the high production costs associated. Algae biofuel production costs 10 times that of palm oil, according Rene Wijffels, a professor at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, who also holds the position of scientific director at an experimental algae farm run by several scientists at the university. A lot of work has to be done to bring the algae fuels to the market. He also predicts that the algae biofuel industry will take another 10-15 years to attain commercial success.
In the viewpoint of some Dutch scientists the algae biofuel production costs should dramatically be reduced in the order of about 90% if the industry has to become commercially viable. Some biggies like Exxon Mobil Corp, Finnish refiner Neste Oil and Dutch vitamin maker DSM are investing in algae production technology in order to develop biofuel.
Algae fuels help face the demand for fuel and the rise in price of food crops used for biofuel production could be reduced.According to a research conducted in the Wageningen University, the oil content in algae ranges from 20 to 60 percent and about 20,000 to 80,000 litres of oil can be produced per hectare of algae a year, while a hectare of palm oil plantation produces about 6,000 litres of oil per year.
Prof Wijffels monitors growth of microalgae produced in laboratories and then grown at the farm in vertical plastic tubes or in plastic panels filled with water.
According to Rafaello Garofallo, an executive director of the European Algae Biomass Association, the European Commission has allotted funds for three algae production facilities, which should start operating in the next two to three years. He opines that algae as a biofuel feedstock hold a huge potential and there are some efforts to have seaweed in the offshore wind parks but the technology is the real issue.
Rene Klein, another professor at Wageningen University, is of the view that the development of such technology could require investment in Europe of as much as 1.5 billion euros in the next few years.
ExxonMobil, Neste Oil and DSM are among the investors who have put up a part of the funding for the 6 million euro ($8.48 million) trial project.
Neste Oil, which is expected to launch Europe's largest biodiesel refinery in the Dutch port of Rotterdam this summer, said previously that 80 percent of its 40 million euro annual research budget is spent on new technologies including biofuel production from algae.
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