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, also called
can beproduced using ocean andwastewater, and arebiodegradableand relatively harmless to theenvironment if spilled.
Algae cost more per poundyet can yield over 30 times more energy per acre thanother, second-generation biofuel crops.
Onebiofuels company has claimed that algae can producemore oil in an area the size of a two car garage than afootball field of soybeans,because almost the entirealgal organism can use sunlight to produce lipids, oroil.
This isless than 1/7th the area of cornharvested in the UnitedStates in 2000.
The production of biofuels from algae is thought to helpstabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide in theatmosphere at the present level rather than reducing itto a more “healthy” level. During photosynthesis, algaeand other photosynthetic organisms capture carbondioxide and sunlight and convert it into oxygen andbiomass. The rate at which this happens can be up to99%, which was shown by Weissman and Tillett (1992)in large-scale open-pond systems.As of 2008, such fuels remain too expensive to replaceother commercially available fuels, with the cost of various algae species typically between US$5–10 perKg.
But several companies and governmentagencies are funding efforts to reduce capital andoperating costs and make algae oil productioncommercially viable.
launched in 1978. TheU.S.research program, funded by theU.S. DoE, was
tasked with investigating the use of algae for theproduction of energy. The program initially focusedefforts on the production of hydrogen,however, shiftedprimary research to studying oil production in 1982.From 1982 through its culmination, the majority of theprogram research was focused on the production of transportation fuels, notablybiodiesel,from algae. In1995, as part of the over-all efforts to lower budgetdemands, the DoE decided to end the program.Research stopped in 1996 and staff began compilingtheir research for publication. In July 1998, the DoEpublished the report"A Look Back at the U.S.Department of Energy's Aquatic Species Program:Biodiesel from Algae"
.In 2008, Time MagazinevotedIsaac Berzinone of the
world's most influential persons for his ability to turn adream of an oil-free future into a reality throughGreenFuel, founded in Boston in 2001.
Dry algae factor is thepercentageof algae cells inrelation with the media where it is cultured, e.g. if thedry algae factor is 50%, one would need 2 kg of wetalgae (algae in the media) to get 1 kg of algae cells.Lipid factor is the percentage of vegoil in relation withthe algae cells needed to get it, i.e. if the algae lipidfactor is 40%, one would need 2.5 kg of algae cells toget 1 kg of oil.
Yields (gallons of oil per acre per year) cover a vastrange from 5,000 to 150,000. If all aspects of thecultivation are controlled - temperature, CO
levels,sunlight and nutrients (including carbohydrates as afood source), then extremely high yields can beobtained. Such variation can make calculations onwhich to base 'fuel the world' scenarios very difficult.For example, Glen Kertz of Valcent Productshttp://www.valcent.net,claims that "algae can produce100,000 gallons of oil per acre" per year. This relies ongrowing the algae in an entirely closed loop system.More recently, Valcent have claimed 150,000 gallonsmay be possible
; their most recent actual reportedyields were 33,000 gallons per acre per year
. Thisamounts to 21,153,000 gallons per square mile peryear
. In 2007, the U.Sconsumed 20,680,000 barrels/day of petroleum
. That is 3.17E11 gallons/year
. Thus, with theproduction capabilities of Valcent, it would only require15,000 square miles
of land to completely displace petroleum use in theU.S.Current projections, however, do not take into accountthe energy losses due to converting the algae lipidsinto fuels. These chemical processes are most likelyinefficient, as most are.