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Algae for biofuels: Moving from promise to reality, but how fast?
Date:11/2/2010

k projects. In the United Kingdom, the Carbon Trust has initiated a 10-year effort to develop algae oil production, engaging a dozen universities and research laboratories, while the European Union recently funded three 25-acre pilot projects.

Most of these projects use the raceway, open pond-based algal production technologies, which were analyzed in the EBI Report. These projects hope to show that it is possible to mass culture algae with current or near-term technology within the technical and economic constraints required for biofuel production.

Once the technologies are developed, global resource availability will be a major controller of algae production, the report states. Four key resources (suitable climate, water, flat land and carbon dioxide) must all be available in one location for optimal algal biomass production. The authors state that despite the need for all four resources, algal oil production technology has the potential to produce several billion gallons annually of renewable fuel in the U.S. However, achieving this goal, particularly at competitive capital and operating costs, will require further research and development.

The EBI report focuses on algal biofuels produced in conjunction with wastewater treatment as a promising cost-effective strategy to fast-track development of a practical production process. Besides providing the needed water and nutrients, use of wastewater in algae production provides the potential for income from the treatment service provided.

The areas the study identified as essential for R&D are in both the biology and engineering fields. The ability to cultivate stable cultures under outdoor conditions, while achieving both high productivities and oil content, is still to be developed. Despite the well-known rapid growth rate of algae, increasing the volume of algae oil produced per unit of surface area per year is a crucial goal. Oil-rich algae strains that are biologically co
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Contact: Ron Kolb
RRKolb@berkeley.edu
510-643-6255
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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