Biodiesel from Algae


Algae are a major renewable source of oil that can be used in the manufacture of biodiesel.  A New Zealand company was the first to develop a system for using sewage waste as a substrate for growing algae.  The algae were then used to make fuel.

Biodiesel is now generally prepared with vegetable oils and animal fats.  The vegetable oil used varies from country to country.  Soybean oil is used in the U.S., sunflower oil in France, and palm oil in Malaysia.  Both edible and nonedible oils are used in India, including neem oil, castor oil, and rice bran oil.   All oils currently being utilized are cheap and effective in fuel production.  Animal fats can be also be used.  Currently only 0.3% of the land of the US is being utilized to produce oil for the purpose of making bio-fuel.

There are various advantages of producing fuel from algae, including the plant’s rapid growth.   Its oil is highly biodegradeable and does not contain sulfur or other toxic materials.   Some particular species of the plant are ideally suited for fuel production because of their high oil content.  It is considered to be a higher yielding source of oil than soybeans, acre for acre.

Algae range in type from small, singled-celled organisms to very complex multi-cellular organisms.  They are common in terrestrial as well as aquatic environments.  This plant can be found easily in wetlands and small bodies of water.  Like any other plants, its requirements for growth are sunlight, carbon dioxide and water.   As with other plants, sunlight is converted into chemical energy with a process known as photosynthesis.  Algae contains between 2%-40% of lipids or oils by weight.  
Gallons of oil required per acre for one year: 

Sugarcane 79.2
Oil of Palm 50
Arundo Donax 50
Micro Algae–1850
Micro Algae–5000-15,000

Companies At Work

The Enhance Biofuels and Technology uses a process to grow algae which combines a bioreactor with an open pond and uses both waste carbon dioxide from a coal fired power plant and flue gases as fertilizer.

GreenFuel Technology uses an emissions to biofuels process in which the plants are used to capture CO2 with photosynthesis and produces a high-energy biomass.  The algae can then be economically converted to solid fuel, methane or bio-fuels.

Hopefully comapnies such as these can perfect the process of using algae to make biodiesel into a cleaner, more easily attainable fuel. 

Source: biofuels

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