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Sunday
Feb192012

The future is now!

In a town in Southern New Mexico, a huge Algae production facility has opened up. It is producing large quantities of Algae for Bio fuel. High oil prices, competing demands between foods and other biofuel sources, and the world food crisis, have ignited interest in Algaculture (farming Algae) for making vegetable oil, biodeisel, bioethanol, biogasoline, biomethanol, biobutanol and other biofuels, using land that is not suitable for agriculture.

Algae fuels’ many attractive characteristics are: They do not affect fresh water resources, they can be produced using ocean and waste water, and they are biodegradable and relatively harmless to the environment if spilled. Algae cost more per unit mass (as of 2010, food grade algae costs ~$5000/ton), due to high capital and operating costs, yet are claimed to yield between 10 and 100 times more energy per unit area than other second-generation biofuel crops.

One biofuels company has claimed that Algae can produce more oil in an area the size of a two car garage than a football field of soybeans, because almost the entire algal organism can use sunlight to produce lipids, or oil. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (39,000 km2) which is only 0.42% of the U.S. map, or about half of the land area of Maine. This is less than 1⁄7 the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000.

However, these claims remain unrealized, commercially. According to the head of the Algae Biomass Organization, Algae fuel can reach price parity with oil in 2018 if granted production tax credits. Currently most research into efficient algal-oil production is being done in the private sector, but predictions from small-scale production experiments bear out that using algae to produce biodiesel may be the only viable method by which to produce enough automotive fuel to replace current world diesel usage.

If Algae-derived biodiesel were to replace the annual global production of 1.1 billion tons of conventional diesel then a land mass of 57.3 million hectares would be required, which would be highly favorable compared to other biofuels. The benefits of Algae biofuel are obvious, and it will no doubt replace Soy and Corn as the world standard bio fuel source. All you need is water, light and a little bit of mineral nutrient (just like most plants).

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