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Leatham investigates Economics of Wild Algae Fuel

September 25th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Uncategorized

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Year 10 student Leatham Landon-Lane’s project investigating the economics and productivity of wild algae fuel took out the best exhibit prize at the Marlborough Lines Science and Technology Fair yesterday.

Leatham used wild algae from a reservoir at his Waihopai Valley home to test biofuel company claims that 100,000 gallons (378,430 litres) of biofuel could be produced from a hectare of algae.

After growing the algae and using solvents to extract the oil, the 15-year-old produced an amount that would equate to just 25 gal (95 litres) of fuel per hectare.

“I know my algae wasn’t perfect as it wasn’t very high production, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that bad that it was 4000 times less than their [biofuel company] claims.”

A reasonable figure, he said, would be that the companies’ algae was about 100 times better than his, which means that it would produce between 3000 and 5000 gal (11353 and 18922 litres).

“As I did more research it became obvious that their claims were not realistic. “Biofuel costs between US$5 and US$10 per litre and that’s really expensive.”I think the companies are just trying to raise capital.”

Head judge, Plant and Food scientist Rob Agnew, said the depth of Leatham’s experiment and his understanding was impressive.

“He had done a lot of background work and research and the fact that he had gone ahead and actually succeeded in making some product from algae was great.”

Leatham will now be nominated to attend a national science camp/fair in Wellington in December.

Source: The Marlborough Express

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One Response to “Leatham investigates Economics of Wild Algae Fuel”

  1. mano Says:

    Guru ji

    Many of these companies that make these claims are in the stage of getting their 3/4/5 sth stage of funding. While I agree it is important to check the veracity of their statements, it is also important to look at the research done by a young boy !

    Many of these companies are likely to have a VC on their board and just cant get away making false claims !

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