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Algae Fuels- Emerging opportunity for India Posted by Sumukhi on Wed August 18 2010 10:06:48 AM 7

When algae are grown they should be provided the best possible conditions to achieve their growth potential. I was earlier a bit skeptical about growing algae in open-ponds. However, when I visualize a country such as India - a few states in India have ample of land, sunshine throughout the year and easy access to marine water, isn't growing algae in open-ponds using marine water a good option? I say it's a big YES!

Many scientists claim that filtered sea water is a good medium for algae to grow, though additional nutrient requirement to some extent might be required. Again, the nutrient cost is less, research studies reveal that it is as less as $1 for 80 Kg's of algae biomass.

Considering the harvesting of algae, cheap labor is a major advantage offered by India, so why not use semi-automated methods for harvesting algae which is less energy intensive and less costly.

Apparently, there are a few algae farms, specifically Spirulina farms which are managed by the local village women. There is a farm at Madurai - Follow the link - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6cslNtc6P4
wherein there are 40 tanks maintained by 15 women, they take care of both the upstream and the downstream processes of spirulina cultivation and production of the end-product.

All this might not be exactly the same for biofuel strains of algae, however, in my opinion,this is how things should evolve for algae biofuel commercialization in India as well.

As said earlier, most of the states in India experiences sunlight throughout the year, so solar drying is an excellent option.Similarly, dewatering is also done manually. Here I foresee an issue for extraction, as for Spirulina, it is dried, powdered and sold at a high price. There are other challenges if biofuels are considered, extraction is difficult.

May be along with biofuel, some expensive by-product should be produced. Many companies are actually trying to that, a few Indian researchers are producing biobutanol and other products to cope up the cost.