Marine algae - Green fuel source

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Scientists have determined that bio-fuel development is shifting from soil to sea, specifically to marine algae, referred to as “green bullet”. It is now felt to be society’s best hope for a clean bio-energy source that will help loosen broad dependence on fossil fuel, counteract climate warming, and power the vehicles of the future.

Contents

Why should I be aware of this?

Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, feel that marine algae are the most efficient organisms on Earth for absorbing light energy and converting it into a natural biomass oil product, the bio-fuel equivalent of crude oil. As algae yields five to 10 times more bio-energy molecules per area, per time, than any terrestrial plant, it has a clear advantage over other bio-fuel candidates, such as corn and soybeans. Another major advantage is that algae can be grown on barren desert land using salt water, averting competition with agricultural cropland and the need for large amounts of precious fresh water for irrigation.

All about marine algae

Algae are inherently carbon neutral, and can suck up carbon dioxide directly from industrial pollution sources. They can not only feed off the nutrients in discarded wastewater, but leftovers from algae harvests can be converted to animal feed.

Algae production sites are gradually coming up featuring farms with vast oval-shaped ponds capable of churning out hundreds of pounds of algal biomass per day. The farms are required to produce an economically relevant quantity of algae-based oil for bio-diesel fuel in cars, trucks, and airplanes.

Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch energy giant, is already growing marine algae at a pilot facility in Hawaii to produce vegetable oil for processing into bio-fuel. The research project has been undertaken as part of a joint venture, called Cellana, with HR Biopetroleum, an American micro-algae specialist. [1]

15 times more oil per hectare

With ability to double its mass several times in a day, algae can produce more than 15 times more oil per hectare than alternatives such as rape, palm, soya or jatropha. Alternative sources of bio-fuel, particularly palm oil, have been linked with deforestation and the loss of agricultural land in developing countries. It is estimated that globally algae is responsible for more than 85 per cent of the net global production of oxygen through photosynthesis.

90 degrees

There is still a long way to go before algae can be converted to bio-fuel. But with proper investment and technology it could be achieved within 10 years. As algae are tiny lime-green-colored plant-like organisms, they have to be harvested on a massive scale to make them realistic fuel options.

References:

  • Marine algae most promising bet for green fuel
  • Marine algae

Source

  1. Times Online