Harvesting Algae for Biodiesel

algae in the spring water

Rising oils prices are causing hard times for many Americans, but these record costs are having some unexpected effects on the future of efficient energy.  Biodiesel production has been a hot topic lately though many problems can arise from the substitution of prime food crop land for biodiesel crops.  Many studies are showing that growing biodiesel crops can leave a bigger carbon footprint than traditional fuel sources.  One alternative way of growing plants for use in producing bio-diesel is the harvesting of algae.  Though this technology is in the early stages of development, it is appearing very promising.

The yield of oil from micro algae is considerably higher than other biodiesel sources currently being exploited such as corn, soybeans, and sunflower seeds.  With a higher yield, less surface area is needed to produce larger results.  Less land would have to be converted from growing crops and allow the United States to continue exporting the same level or food crops.  According to studies, the table below gives an estimate of fuel yields.

Gallons of Oil per

Acre per Year











Oil Palm


Micro Algae




As we can see, high consumer prices can bring about change and development that can help us in our mission to find renewable resources that are efficient and viable.  We clearly have a need to protect our resources and upgrade our fuel capabilities.  Algae may very well be the answer to our problems and high fuel costs.

Holland, Michigan is in plans to develop a $7 million pilot program addressing the harvesting and production of biodiesel from algae.  Treated waste-water would be combined with carbon dioxide from the local power plant.  Developers intend to test the possibilities of growing an effective source of biodiesel.  In the future, partnerships with Michigan State University could provide the tools and knowledge to perfect the technology.

For more information visit the websites below.

15 Algae Startups

Algae Farm Producing Jet-Fuel

Michigan’s algae solution

Algae on a rock

2 thoughts on “Harvesting Algae for Biodiesel

  1. Very cool, I build biodiesel processors which turn waste vegetable oil into biodiesel. It is really amazing how simple the process is, as well as saving the customer $2-3 per gallon at the pumps. Algae biodiesel looks even more promising. As the other poster said, we just need to keep moving in the right direction.

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