Algae to the rescue

  1. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,521
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    It may be valuable to consider microalgae as a potential solution to a number of problems; not the least of which being the energy problem. Algae can be used to produce biodiesel, ethanol, and hydrogen, as options to the use of petroleum based fuels.
    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/legosti/fy98/24190.pdf


    Another side of this issue is that algae can be used to clean-up industrial, agricultural, municipal waste, and/or for CO2 remediation, first, and then be used for fuel production.

    http://wwwscieng.murdoch.edu.au/centres/algae/BEAM-Net/BEAMHOME.html

    Here is one story in the news that seems to be appropriate for consideration in this regard.

    http://www.livescience.com/environment/080125-mississippi-chemistry.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  2. jcsd
    Earth sciences news on Phys.org
  3. wolram

    wolram 3,732
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    Algae to the rescue.

    So what are we waiting for, some Arab sheikh to come along and fund production?
     
  4. sas3

    sas3 201
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    I have read that they can get over 50,000 gallons of biodiesel pre season per acre with algae.
    "So what are we waiting for" was also my reaction.
    Dam oil companies!
     
  5. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,521
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    Eh, about the best we can expect is 10,000 gallons per acre-year; and that is probably not realistic except in the lab. But all things considered - after factoring in processing efficiency - it is still about 40 times better than corn ethanol.

    The maximum production is limited for one by the solar energy input. However, if the conversion efficiency of algae can be improved through hybridization or genetic engineering, then we might be able to exceed the 10,000 gallon per acre-year limit.

    What are we waiting for? Personally, I'm not waiting - I started a biofuels company. The question is: What are YOU waiting for?
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2008
  6. DaleSpam

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    I am a big fan of algae and other biofuels. But I think that "dam oil companies"-type statements are fairly silly. There is a lot of R&D going on, so if the oil industry is actually attempting to suppress alternative technologies then they are obviously simply incapable of suppressing them.

    Each alternative fuel has some serious technical, logistical, and economical challenges to overcome in order to replace petroleum. The best thing possible for overcoming these challenges is continued high prices for petroleum.
     
  7. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,521
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    That is true. It apppears that $3 is the magic number for one because this is the price of biodiesel. In the past when the choice was biodiesel at $3, or petrodiesel at $1.50, it was a tough sell. But with biodiesel price competitive like it is now, progress is made quickly.

    One hidden variable here is that by just replacing imported oil, domestic fuel production will inject about a half-trillion dollars into the US economy each year - money that currently goes to foreign suppliers. That is about one Iraq war every year in returns.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2008
  8. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,521
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  9. Why is this discussion in Earth and not Biology or Engineering?
     
  10. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,521
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    It is intended to address specific environemental needs such as the one in the story linked. But obviously background information is appropriate, and it is a multidisciplinary subject.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2008
  11. wolram

    wolram 3,732
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    What are we waiting for? Personally, I'm not waiting - I started a biofuels company. The question is: What are YOU waiting for?

    Well done Ivan i hope your company flourishes, is there a depth limit of the water needed to grow algae?
     
  12. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,521
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    It is generally claimed that all growth occurs in the top fraction of an inch of the water.
     
  13. Integral

    Integral 7,345
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  14. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,521
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    Wow! We will have to see if this pans out. I have seen claims like this come and go for decades... so we will see.

    Of course there is still a tremendous need for diesel either way.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2008
  15. How is this good for the environment? I don't think algae can compete with diesel processed from crude oil.
     
  16. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,521
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    Do your have any reasons for your opinion?
     
  17. DaleSpam

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    One thing I like about ethanol is the possibility of direct ethanol fuel cells. I think cellulosic ethanol is the only ethanol that makes sense economically. Otherwise we are literally burning our own crops. Most of the valid objections of the anti-ethanol crowd are directly related to the impact on food supplies.

    That said I am open to algae and other sources of biodiesel also. The more different sources we can use the better.
     
  18. wolram

    wolram 3,732
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    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/new-power-generation-alternative-energy-sourc

    Seems the big boys are getting in on the act.

    Meanwhile, in Hawaii, the petroleum giant Shell has more immediate plans. Its ingenious system aims to produce biodiesel from pond scum. It might sound outlandish, but algae has become something of a buzzword in future-fuel circles. If Shell, the first oil major to invest in algal oils, can show the technique to be a viable alternative to standard diesel and existing biofuels, algal fuels could soon appear on a forecourt near you.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2008
  19. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,521
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    No matter how this pans out, the high energy density of biodiesel as compared to ethanol - about 1.5 times higher - and the fact that it can be used in existing diesel and [with modifications] aircraft engines, and the fact that diesel engines are more efficient than existing IC engines means that BD is needed in large quantities for many years to come.

    But again, one of the huge benefits of algae is that it can be used for waste remediation [industrial, agricultural, and municipal] and then used to produce fuel. In essense we have the potential to make a profit by cleaning-up environmental disasters. For example, nitrogen from agricultural runoff kills lakes and streams, but algae loves it!
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2008
  20. mheslep

    mheslep 3,383
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    Its not the nitrogen that kills. The N spawns accelerated plant growth that in turn takes oxygen from the water, its the lack of O2 that kills.
     
  21. I am thin on why watered down diesel fuel production involves the earth sciences. Yall certainly have a wholesale issue grasp, so may I assume the earth science relationion has something to do with available water resources, which if the production plants are built close to large water reserves like say on the texas gulf coast no problem unfolds.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2008
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