Get our free book on rainwater now - To Catch the Rain.

Algae fuel

From Appropedia
Revision as of 14:28, 15 June 2011 by Chriswaterguy (Talk | Contributions) (unneeded w links)

Jump to: navigation, search

Algae fuel, also called algal fuel, oilgae [1] or third generation biofuel, is a biofuel from algae. Compared with second generation biofuels, algae are high-yield high-cost (30 times more energy per acre than terrestrial crops) feedstocks to produce biofuels. Since the whole organism converts sunlight into oil, algae can produce more oil in an area the size of a two-car garage than an entire football field of soybeans.[2]

Nowadays they cost $5–10/kg and there is active research to reduce both capital and operating costs of production so that it is commercially viable.[3][4][5]

Algae can potentially thrive exhaust from power plants which run on fossil fuel (or any fuel that is burnt to product carbon dioxide. The algae grows faster thanks to the high concentration of carbon dioxide, which would otherwise be emitted as a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, increasing climate change.

However, it does appear to have greater environmental impact than other forms of biofuel.[6]

Companies working on this include:

  • Enhanced Biofuels & Technologies[1] - The process combines a bioreactor with an open pond, using waste CO2 from coal-fired power plant flue gases.
  • GreenFuel Technologies[2] - "Emissions-to-Biofuels™" process to capture CO2 and produce high-energy biomass. This company appears to have collapsed.[7]
  • GreenShift[3] - with an agreement with Ohio University for its bioreactor process based on a iron-loving cyanobacterium (blue-green algae).
  • Solazyme[4] - uses genetic engineering to optimize commercially relevant biochemical pathways, to produce energy and specialty chemicals.
  • LiveFuels - Working on breeding strains of algae.
  • Valcent Products[5] - has designed a high density vertical bio-reactor for the oil bearing algae, for removing large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • Aquaflow Bionomics Corporation[6] -, New Zealand-based, focused on wild algae harvested from open-air environments.
  • Infinifuel Biodiesel[7] - in Nevada, a geothermal-powered and heated biodiesel plant.
  • Solix Biofuels[ - developing massively scalable photo-bioreactors for producing biodiesel and other commodities from algae oil. The closed photo-bioreactors allow exhaust from fossil-fuel power plants to be captured by the system.

Algal jet fuel

A number of universities and businesses are working on algal fuel for aviation - algae jet fuel. These include: the companies Solazyme, Honeywell UOP, Solena, Sapphire Energy, Imperium Renewables, and Aquaflow Bionomic, along withArizona State University and Cranfield University.


  • Carbon dioxide, from burnt fuel or the atmosphere,
  • Nutrients - sewage is one possible source.
  • Light for photosynthesis. Sunlight is the obvious choice - electric lighting is not feasible as it will make the energy cycle much more difficult - the algae would need to be getting significant extra energy from somewhere other than the light.


The key difficulties in the production of oil from algae are:

  • Oil-rich algae must be protected from consumption or displacement by other organisms. If they are grown in open ponds, this is a major challenge.
  • The algae are most productive within a narrow temperature band.
  • The expense of the containment used to protect from invading organisms and maintain a suitable temperature.
  • Controlling the growth. If the algae grows faster than it can be harvested, it can die off and decompose - this was reported as a factor in the failure of GreenFuel.[7] Better understanding of growth rates under various conditions, and better harvesting equipment could both help overcome this problem.

The discussion on the cited Oil Drum article[7] refers to problems in the thermodynamics, i.e. in the basic energy equations, suggesting that algae fuel may never be affordable. Calculations by Odum are among the references for this argument.[verification needed]


  1. " – Oil from Algae!". Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  2. "Why Algae?". Solix Biofuels. Retrieved 2008-06-11.
  3. Hartman, Eviana (2008-01-06). ""A Promising Oil Alternative: Algae Energy"". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  4. "{PhD thesis on algae production for bioenergy}" (PDF). Murdoch University, Western Australia. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  5. ""Algal Oil Diesel, LLP"".
  6. Engineers Find Significant Environmental Impacts with Algae-Based Biofuel
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Cost Viability and Algae, The Oil Drum, May 29, 2009.

Interwiki links

External links

  • Algaloildiesel - Growing and harvesting algae and transforming it oil into biodiesel. (Wiki with 83 pages, little current activity.)

Aprologo-shiny-clearest.png This page is a "stub" - it needs more content.

You are invited to add your knowledge.

No registration needed - just edit.
We monitor for spam and to keep these pages improving.