By:-Rajneesh Kumar M.Tech Env Sci. & Tech.


Key Message
The Research and Development (R&D) of micro-algae is in it’s early stages. The production of micro-algae for high value products like nutritional products is established and Australia is hosting some of the bigger algae plants due to the favourable climatic and investment conditions it has to offer. Nevertheless low value algal products for biofuel, need a massive boost in R&D to overcome technical difficulties to overcome the large cost advantage of other biofuel feedstocks. Micro-algae need carbon dioxide to grow. The inclusion of the current price for carbon credits on the revenue side of an algae-biofuel business does not change the economically unfeasibility of the business.



Rapid increase in human population, industrialization, automobiles and GDP drives world energy requirements and in particular fossil fuels. Enhanced rate of fossil fuel extraction is likely to deplete limited natural resources over short period of time. Continued use of petroleum sourced fuels is now widely recognized as unsustainable because of depleting supplies and the contribution of these fuels to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the environment. Whereas sustained development needs demanding energy which cannot be compromised. So search for alternative fuel is only the way to overcome this problem of upcoming energy crisis. Renewable, carbon neutral, transport fuels are necessary for environmental and economic sustainability. Biodiesel derived from oil crops is a potential renewable and carbon neutral alternative to petroleum fuels. In this aspect biofuel is a sustainable option. Production of biofuels from various biomasses becomes a very interesting field of research unfortunately, biodiesel from oil crops, waste cooking oil and animal fat cannot. Unfortunately, biodiesel from oil crops, waste cooking oil and animal fat cannot realistically satisfy even a small fraction of the existing demand for transport fuels. As demonstrated here, microalgae appear to be the only source of renewable biodiesel that is capable of meeting the global demand for transport fuels. Like plants, microalgae use sunlight to produce oils but they do so more efficiently than crop plants. Oil productivity of many microalgae greatly exceeds the oil productivity of the best producing oil crops. Approaches for making microalgal biodiesel economically competitive with petro diesel are discussed. Presently, the population explosion needing huge food demands, so agricultural land cannot be used for biofuel production. To mitigate the problem using algae for biodiesel production could play an important role. Certain species of algae contains oil at a very significant level and also are fast growing. This algal oil could be processed into biodiesel. The studies were, therefore, conducted to setting up of optimum growth condition for cultivation of algae, standardization of oil extraction method for algae culture, production of biodiesel from algae oil and fuel characterization.





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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS LIST OF TABLES & FIGURES 1 INTRODUCTION a. b. c. d. 2 Classification of Algae Morphology of Algae Algal Oil Yields Potential of microalgal biodiesel


MICROBIAL BIOMASS PRODUCTION & HARVESTING a. b. c. d. Photobioreactor Closed loop Open pond Harvesting of algae



OIL EXTRACTION AND BIODIESEL CONVERSION a. b. c. Physical Extraction Chemical Extraction Production Process by transesterification


4 5 6 7







1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 2.3

Oil content of microalgae species Comparison of some sources of biodiesel A tabular type photobioreactor Raceway type pond Flow chart of production process

9 10 12 13 20




Specific fuel consumption Oxides of nitrogen Unburned hydrocarbon Smoke opacity Oxygen level Carbon dioxide Carbon monoxide Parts per million Particulate matter Compressed natural gas


Microalgae are sunlight-driven cell factories that convert carbon dioxide to potential biofuels, foods, feeds and high-value bioactives. In addition, these photosynthetic microorganisms are useful in bioremediation applications and as nitrogen fixing biofertilizers. This Report focuses on microalgae as a potential source of biodiesel. Microalgae can provide several different types of renewable biofuels. These include methane produced by anaerobic digestion of the algal biomass and photo biologically produced biohydrogen . The idea of using microalgae as a source of fuel is not new , but it is now being taken seriously because of the escalating price of petroleum and, more significantly, the emerging concern about global warming that is associated with burning fossil fuels . Biodiesel is produced currently from plant and animal oils, but not from microalgae. Biodiesel is a proven fuel. Technology for producing and using biodiesel has been known for more than 50 years. In the United States, biodiesel is produced mainly from soybeans. Other sources of commercial biodiesel include canola oil, animal fat, palm oil, corn oil, waste cooking oil , and jatropha oil. Any future production of biodiesel from microalgae is expected to use the same process. Production of methyl esters, or biodiesel, from microalgal oil has been demonstrated. Alga culture is a form of aquaculture involving the farming of species of algae. The majority of algae that are intentionally cultivated fall into the category of microalgae (also referred to as phytoplankton, microphytes or planktonic algae). Microalgae, commonly known as seaweed, also have many commercial and industrial uses. Commercial and industrial algae cultivation has numerous uses, including production of food ingredients, food, fertilizer, bioplastics, dyes and colorants, chemical feedstock, pharmaceuticals, algal fuel, and can also be used for pollution control. Algae fuel, also called oilgae or third generation biofuel, is a biofuel from algae. Algae are low-input, high-yield feedstock’s to produce biofuels. Based on laboratory experiments, it is claimed that algae can produces up to 30 times more energy per acre than land crops such as soybeans, but these yields have yet to be produced commercially. With the higher prices of fossil fuels (petroleum), there is much interest in algaculture. One advantage of many befouls over most other fuel types is that they are biodegradable, and so relatively harmless to the environment if spilled.

1.1 Classification of Algae While Cyanobacteria have been traditionally included among the Algae, recent works usually exclude them due to large differences such as the lack of membrane-bound organelles, the presence of a single circular chromosome, the presence of peptidoglycan in the cell walls, and ribosomes in different size and content from those of the Eukaryotes. Rather than in chloroplasts, they conduct photosynthesis on specialized infolded cytoplasmic membranes called thylakoid membranes. Therefore, they differ significantly from the Algae despite occupying similar ecological niches. By modern definitions Algae are Eukaryotes and conduct photosynthesis within membrane-bound organelles called chloroplasts. Chloroplasts contain circular DNA and are similar in structure to Cyanobacteria, presumably representing reduced cyanobacterial endosymbionts. The exact nature of the chloroplasts is different among the different lines of Algae, reflecting different endosymbiotic events. 1.2 Morphology of Algae A range of algal morphologies are exhibited, and convergence of features in unrelated groups is common. The only groups to exhibit three dimensional multicellular thalli are the reds and browns, and some chlorophytes. Apical growth is constrained to subsets of these groups: the florideophyte reds, various browns, and the charophytes. The form of charophytes is quite different to those of reds and browns, because have distinct nodes, separated by internode 'stems'; whorls of branches reminiscent of the horsetails occur at the nodes. Conceptacles are another polyphyletic trait; they appear in the coralline algae and the Hildenbrandiales, as well as the browns. Most of the simpler algae are unicellular flagellates or amoeboids, but colonial and non-motile forms have developed independently among several of the groups. Some of the more common organizational levels, more than one of which may occur in the life cycle of a species, are
 

Colonial: small, regular groups of motile cells. Capsoid: individual non-motile cells embedded in mucilage.

  

Coccoid: individual non-motile cells with cell walls. Palmelloid: non-motile cells embedded in mucilage. Filamentous: a string of non-motile cells connected together, sometimes branching.

Parenchymatous: cells forming a thallus with partial differentiation of tissues

In three lines even higher levels of organization have been reached, with full tissue differentiation. These are the brown algae, some of which may reach 50 m in length (kelps) the red algae, and the green algae. The most complex forms are found among the green algae in a lineage that eventually led to the higher land plants. 1.3 Algal Oil Yields Microalgae, like higher plants, produce lipids in the form of triglycerols (TAGs). Comparatively algae produce more oil than any other oilseeds which are currently in use. Many microalgal species can be induced to accumulate substantial quantities of lipids, often greater than 60% of their biomass. For algae there are significant variations between oil yields from different strains of algae which is presented in Table 1.1. Table 1.1 Oil Content of few Microalgal Species Microalgal species Ankistrodesmus TR-87 Botryococcus braunii Chlorella sp. Chlorella protothecoides Cyclotella DI- 35 Dunaliella tertiolecta Hantzschia DI-160 Oil content(% dw) 28-40 29-75 29 15-55 42 36-42 66


1.4. Potential of microalgal biodiesel Replacing all the transport fuel consumed in the United States with biodiesel will require 0.53 billion m3 of biodiesel annually at the current rate of consumption. Oil crops, waste cooking oil and animal fat cannot realistically satisfy this demand. For example, meeting only half the existing U.S. transport fuel needs by biodiesel, would require unsustainably large cultivation areas for major oil crops. This is demonstrated in Table 1. Using the average oil yield per hectare from various crops, the cropping area needed to meet 50% of the U.S. transport fuel needs is calculated in column 3 (Table 1.2). In column 4 (Table 1.2) this area is expressed as a percentage of the total cropping area of the United States. If oil palm, a high-yielding oil crop can be grown, 24% of the total cropland will need to be devoted to its cultivation to meet only 50% of the transport fuel needs. Clearly, oil crops cannot significantly contribute to replacing petroleum derived liquid fuels in the foreseeable future. This scenario changes dramatically, if microalgae are used to produce biodiesel. Between 1 and 3% of the total U.S. cropping area would be sufficient for producing algal biomass that satisfies 50% of the transport fuel needs (Table 1.2). The microalgal oil yields given in Table 1.2 are based on experimentally. Table 1.2 Comparison of some source of Biodiesel



Producing microalgal biomass is generally more expensive than growing crops. Photosynthetic growth requires light, carbon dioxide, water and inorganic salts. Temperature must remain generally within 20 to 30 °C. To minimize expense, biodiesel production must rely on freely available sunlight, despite daily and seasonal variations in light levels. Growth medium must provide the inorganic elements that constitute the algal cell. Essential elements include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), iron and in some cases silicon. Biodiesel production can potentially use some of the carbon dioxide that is released in power plants by burning fossil fuels. This carbon dioxide is often available at little or no cost. Ideally, microalgal biodiesel would be carbon neutral, as all the power needed for producing and processing the algae would come from biodiesel itself and from methane produced by anaerobic digestion of biomass residue left behind after the oils has been extracted. Although microalgal biodiesel can be carbon neutral, it will not result in any net reduction in carbon dioxide that is accumulating as a consequence of burning of fossil fuels. Algae can produce up to 300 times more oil per acre than conventional crops, such as rapeseed, palms, soybeans, or jatropha. As Algae has a harvesting cycle of 1–10 days, it permits several harvests in a very short time frame, a differing strategy to yearly crops. Algae can also be grown on land that is not suitable for other established crops, for instance, arid land, land with excessively saline soil, and drought-stricken land. This minimizes the issue of taking away pieces of land from the cultivation of food crops. Algae can grow 20 to 30 times faster than food crops. Cultivation of algae could be carried out in photobioreactors, closed loop system or in open pond. Large-scale production of microalgal biomass generally uses continuous culture during daylight. 2.1 Photobioreactors Most companies pursuing algae as a source of biofuels are pumping nutrientladen water through plastic tubes (called "bioreactors“) that are exposed to sunlight (and so called photobioreactors or PBR). A tubular photobioreactor consists of an

array of straight transparent tubes that are usually made of plastic or glass. This tubular array, or the solar collector, is where the sunlight is captured (Fig. 2.5). Unlike open raceways, photobioreactors permit essentially single-species culture of microalgae for prolonged durations. Photobioreactors have been successfully used for producing large quantities of algae biomass. Photobioreactors require cooling during daylight hours. Furthermore, temperature control at night is also useful. Outdoor tubular photobioreactors are effectively and inexpensively cooled using heat exchangers. Large tubular photobioreactors have been placed within temperature controlled greenhouses, but it is quite expensive for biofuel production. Photobioreactors provide much greater oil yield per hectare compared with raceway ponds. This is because the volumetric biomass productivity of photobioreactors is more than 13-fold greater in comparison with raceway ponds, though running a PBR is more difficult than an open pond, and more costly.

Fig 2.1 A tubular photobioreactor with parallel run horizontal tube 2.2 Closed Loop System Another obstacle preventing widespread mass production of algae for biofuel production has been the equipment and structures needed to begin growing algae in large quantities. In a closed system (not exposed to open air) there is not the problem of contamination by other organisms blown in by the air. The problem for a closed system is finding a cheap source of sterile CO2. Several experiments have found the CO2 from a smokestack works well for growing algae. To be economical, some experts think that algae farming for biofuels will have to be done next to power plants, where they can also help soak up the pollution.


2.3 Open Pond Raceway-type ponds and lakes are open to the elements. Open ponds are highly vulnerable to contamination by other microorganisms, such as other algal species or bacteria. Thus cultivators usually choose closed systems for monocultures. Open systems also do not offer control over temperature and lighting. The growing season is largely dependent on location and aside from tropical areas, is limited to the warmer months. A raceway pond is made of a closed loop recirculation channel that is typically about 0.3 m deep (Fig. 2.6). Raceway ponds for mass culture of microalgae have been used since the 1950s. In raceway ponds, temperature fluctuates within a diurnal cycle and seasonally. Evaporative water loss can be significant. Because of significant losses of water to atmosphere, raceways use carbon dioxide much less efficiently than photobioreactors. Productivity is affected by contamination with unwanted algae and microorganisms that feed on algae. Raceways are perceived to be less expensive than photobioreactors, because they cost less to build and operate. Although raceways are low-cost, they have a low biomass productivity compared with photobioreactors. Open pond systems are cheaper to construct, at the minimum requiring of only a trench or pond. Large ponds have the largest production capacities relative to other systems of comparable cost. Also, open pond cultivation can exploit unusual conditions that suit only specific algae. Open culture can also work if there is a system of culling the desired algae and inoculating new ponds with a high starting concentration of the desired algae. Algae can also grow on marginal lands, such as in desert areas where the groundwater is saline, rather than utilize fresh water.

Figure 2.2 Raceway Pond

2.4 Harvesting of Microalgae

The term Algae Harvesting refers to concentration of diluted algae suspension until a thick Algae Paste is obtained. Harvesting of microalgae from algae cultivation pond or photobioreactor employs several techniques to concentrate the Algae. Normally harvesting of microalgae can be a single step process or two step process which involves harvesting and dewatering. Harvesting microalgae is difficult because of the small size of the algae. Choosing the effective harvesting process for a particular strain depends on size and property.

Techniques for harvesting microalgae include  Settling or flotation  Centrifugation and  Filtration. These processes are aided by cell flocculation, either through the addition of chemical Flocculants or through culture autoflocculation. Flocculation causes the cells to become aggregated into larger clumps which are more easily filtered and/or settle more rapidly. The ease in harvesting the algae depends primarily on the organism's size, which determines how easily the species can be settled and filtered. The most rapidly growing algal species are frequently very small, and often motile unicells, these are the most difficult to harvest. Thus, it is necessary to maintain an effective interaction between the development of harvesting technologies and the selection of algal species for mass culture.


2.5 Parameters Required for Algal Growth 2.5.1 Light As with all plants, micro-algae photosynthesize, i.e. they assimilate inorganic carbon for conversion into organic matter. Light is the source of energy which drives this reaction and in this regard intensity, spectral quality and photoperiod need to be considered. Light intensity plays an important role, but the requirements vary greatly with the culture depth and the density of the algal culture: at higher depths and cell concentrations the light intensity must be increased to penetrate through the culture (e.g. 1,000 lux is suitable for Erlenmeyer flasks; 5,000-10,000 is required for larger volumes). Light may be natural or supplied by fluorescent tubes. Too high light intensity (e.g. direct sun light, small container close to artificial light) may result in photo-inhibition. Also, overheating due to both natural and artificial illumination should be avoided. Fluorescent tubes emitting either in the blue or the red light spectrum should be preferred as these are the most active portions of the light spectrum for photosynthesis. The duration of artificial illumination should be minimum 18 h of light per day, although cultivated phytoplanktons develop normally under constant illumination. 2.5.2 pH The pH range for most cultured algal species is between 7 and 9, with the optimum range being 8.2-8.7. Complete culture collapse due to the disruption of many cellular processes can result from a failure to maintain an acceptable pH. The latter is accomplished by aerating the culture. In the case of high-density algal culture, the addition of carbon dioxide allows to correct for increased pH, which may reach limiting values of up to pH 9 during algal growth. 2.5.3 Aeration/Mixing Mixing is necessary to prevent sedimentation of the algae, to ensure that all cells of the population are equally exposed to the light and nutrients, to avoid thermal stratification (e.g. in outdoor cultures) and to improve gas exchange between the culture medium and the air. The latter is of primary importance as the air contains the

carbon source for photosynthesis in the form of carbon dioxide. For very dense cultures, the CO2 originating from the air (containing 0.03% CO2) bubbled through the culture is limiting the algal growth and pure carbon dioxide may be supplemented to the air supply (e.g. at a rate of 1% of the volume of air). CO2 addition furthermore buffers the water against pH changes as a result of the CO2/HCO3- balance. Depending on the scale of the culture system, mixing is achieved by stirring daily by hand (test tubes, Erlenmeyer’s), aerating (bags, tanks), or using paddle wheels and jet pumps (ponds). However, it should be noted that not all algal species can tolerate vigorous mixing. 2.5.4 Temperature The optimal temperature for phytoplankton cultures is generally between 20 and 24°C, although this may vary with the composition of the culture medium, the species and strain cultured. Most commonly cultured species of micro-algae tolerate temperatures between 16 and 27°C. Temperatures lower than 16°C will slow down growth, whereas those higher than 35°C are lethal for a number of species. If necessary, algal cultures can be cooled by a flow of cold water over the surface of the culture vessel or by controlling the air temperature with refrigerated air - conditioning units. 2.5.5 Salinity Marine phytoplanktons are extremely tolerant to changes in salinity. Most species grow best at a salinity that is slightly lower than that of their native habitat, which is obtained by diluting sea water with tap water. Salinities of 20-24 g/l have been found to be optimal.


Algae oils have a variety of commercial and industrial uses, and are extracted through a wide variety of methods. Estimates of the cost to extract oil from microalgae vary, but are likely to be around $1.80 (US$)/kg (compared to $0.50 (US$)/kg for palm oil). 3.1 Physical Extraction In the first step of extraction, the oil must be separated from the rest of the algae.  The simplest method is mechanical crushing. When algae is dried it retains its oil content, which then can be "pressed" out with an oil press. Many commercial manufacturers of vegetable oil use a combination of mechanical pressing and chemical solvents in extracting oil. Since different strains of algae vary widely in their physical attributes, various press configurations (screw, expeller, piston, etc) work better for specific algae types. Often, mechanical crushing is used in conjunction with chemical solvents  Osmotic shock is a sudden reduction in osmotic pressure. This can cause cells in a solution to rupture. Osmotic shock is sometimes used to release cellular components, such as oil.  Ultrasonic extraction, a branch of sonochemistry, can greatly accelerate extraction processes. Using an ultrasonic reactor, ultrasonic waves are used to create cavitation bubbles in a solvent material. When these bubbles collapse near the cell walls, the resulting shock waves and liquid jets cause those cells walls to break and release their contents into a solvent. Ultrasonication can enhance basic enzymatic extraction. The combination "sonoenzymatic treatment" accelerates extraction and increases yields.


3.2 Chemical Extraction Chemical solvents are often used in the extraction of the oils. The downsides to using solvents for oil extraction are the dangers involved in working with the chemicals. Care must be taken to avoid exposure to vapors and skin contact, either of which can cause serious health damage. Chemical solvents also present an explosion hazard.

 A common choice of chemical solvent is hexane, which is widely used in the food industry and is relatively inexpensive. Benzene and ether can also separate oil. Benzene is classified as a carcinogen.  Another method of chemical solvent extraction is Soxhlet extraction. In this method, oils from the algae are extracted through repeated washing, or percolation, with an organic solvent such as hexane or petroleum ether, under reflux in a special glassware. The value of this technique is that the solvent is reused for each cycle.  Enzymatic extraction uses enzymes to degrade the cell walls with water acting as the solvent. This makes fractionation of the oil much easier. The costs of this extraction process are estimated to be much greater than hexane extraction. The enzymatic extraction can be supported by ultrasonication. The combination "sonoenzymatic treatment" causes faster extraction and higher oil yields.  Supercritical CO2 can also be used as a solvent. In this method, CO2 is liquefied under pressure and heated to the point that it becomes supercritical (having properties of both a liquid and a gas), allowing it to act as a solvent. Other methods are still being developed, including extraction of specific types of oils, such as those with a high production of long-chain highly unsaturated fatty acids.


3.3 Production of Biodiesel from Algae Oil 3.3.1 Processing of Algal Oil into Biodiesel Esterification process is defined as the chemically reacting triglycerides such as one of the vegetable oil with an alcohol in presence of an alkaline or acidic catalyst to produce glycerol and fatty acids ester. In this process the ester is produced when vegetable oil combines with a simple alcohol in presence of a catalyst. The fatty acids of vegetable oil exchange places with the (OH) groups of the alcohol producing glycerol and methyl, ethyl or butyl fatty acids ester depending on the type of alcohol used. The four distinct stages in the preparation of an ester are namely:  heating oil at a desired temperature.  stirring and heating of alcohol-oil mixture with an alkaline or acidic catalyst.  separation of glycerol and washing of ester with water.  evaporating traces of water from ester recovered.

The following parameters affect the level of ester recovery:  molar ratio of vegetable oil- alcohol mixture  preheating time  preheating temperature  reaction time  reaction temperature  type of catalyst  concentration of catalyst  settling time  method of removal of traces of water from washed ester either by heating or absorbing using a suitable chemical.


Methanol Raw algae oil (Pretreated at 60oC for 60 mins) Mix KOH (3% concentration) Heating at 60oC for 90 min in shaking water bath 6:1molar ratio at

Separating glycerol at selected settling time(4 hrs.)

Glycerol separated

Water (5% of volume

Washing of ester (Three times)

Removal of water containing excess of KOH, methanol and soap

Dry the ester by heating at 100oC for 15 biodiesel) minutes

of crude


Fig 3.1- Process of Algal Biodiesel Production
Figure:2.3 The methyl ester of raw algal oil was also prepared as per the steps described above.



4.1 Investment and Economic Viability There is always uncertainty about the success of new products and investors have to consider carefully the proper energy sources in which to invest. A drop in fossil fuel oil prices might make consumers and therefore investors lose interest in renewable energy. Algal fuel companies are learning that investors have different expectations about returns and length of investments. Every investor has its own unique stipulations that are obstacles to further algae fuel development. Additional concerns consider the potential environmental impact of Algal fuel development, as well as secondary impacts on wildlife such as bears and fish. Whereas technical problems, such as harvesting, are being addressed successfully by the industry, the high up-front investment of algae-to-biofuels facilities is seen by many as a major obstacle to the success of this technology. Only few studies on the economic viability are publically available, and must often rely on the little data (often only engineering estimates) available in the public domain. The Green Fuels photobioreactor and estimated that algae oil would only be competitive at an oil price of $800 per barrel. Comparison has been made between raceways, photobioreactors and anaerobic fermenters to make biofuels from algae and found that photobioreactors are too expensive to make biofuels. Raceways might be costeffective in warm climates with very low labour costs, and fermenters may become cost-effective subsequent to significant process improvements. It is found that capital cost, labour cost and operational costs (fertilizer, electricity, etc.) by themselves are too high for algae biofuels to be cost-competitive with conventional fuels. Similar results were found by others, suggesting that unless new, cheaper ways of harnessing algae for biofuels production are found, their great technical potential may never become economically accessible.


4.2 Advantages of alagal biodiesel Algae-based biodiesel appears to be an improvement over its oil-based counterpart as well as other alternatives in at least a few important ways: 4.2.1 Very Low Carbon Footprint Preliminary studies indicate that some of the leading algae based diesel fuels achieve 85-93 percent reductions of carbon dioxide emission per mile driven versus standard petroleum based ultra-low-sulphur diesel in full “field-to-wheels” lifecycle analysis studies. On the other hand, the algae absorb CO2 from the environment at the time of their growth so when CO2 releases after burning of algal biodiesel it actually recycles the CO2 of the environment, thus creating a situation of carbon credit. 4.2.2 Algal Biodiesel Could be Used in Traditional Engines Algae-derived crude oils can be refined to be fully compatible with existing diesel oil, and can serve as a direct “drop-in” replacement for these fuels. Unlike ethanol and other “blends,” existing petroleum refineries can process this algal oil “neat” or “blended” to yield renewable transportation fuels that are essentially interchangeable with their petroleum-derived equivalents.

4.2.3 Compatible with Existing Infrastructure Our country has made a multi-trillion dollar investment in the existing petroleum infrastructure, and new types of fuel or new types of vehicles would require significant infrastructural upgrades. In the case of some fuels, such as natural gas or ethanol, an almost entirely new infrastructure would be required. Certain algal fuels, in contrast, can be used in the existing storage, distribution, and delivery infrastructure.


4.2.4 Readily Scalable Unlike other energy crops, photosynthetic algae grow continuously and can be harvested every 7-14 days. Consequently, algae can produce 10 to 30 times more oil than traditional terrestrial oil seed crops, such as rapeseed and palm. Algae companies estimate that photosynthetic algae grown in open ponds can produce over 5,000 gallons per acre per year of petroleum-equivalent “green crude,” rendering algae a very scalable and productive renewable energy crop.

4.2.5 Cultivation of Algae does not Compete with Food or Water Resources Algae can grow on non-arable, desert land, non-potable brackish or salt water. So cultivation of algae does not compete with land and water resources required by other agricultural crops. It is reported that replacing 50 percent of U.S. transport fuel needs with even relatively low-yield algae (30 percent oil yield by weight) would require 2.5 percent of total U.S. cropland. Doing the same with traditional corn ethanol would require almost 850 percent of current crop land . So in a nut shell the advantages of algal biodiesel may be summarized as:  Rapid growth rates of algae provide more biomass in short time span  Certain species of algae can be harvested daily  Algae possesses a high per-acre yield (7 to 31 times greater than the next best crop – palm oil)  Algae biofuel contains no sulphur  Algae biofuel is non-toxic  Algae biofuel is highly bio-degradable  Algae consume carbon dioxide as they grow, so they could be used to capture CO2 from power stations and other industrial plant that would otherwise go into the atmosphere.


Cost and yield efficiency of producing microalgal biodiesel can be improved substantially by using a biorefinery based production strategy, improving capabilities of microalgae through genetic engineering and advances in engineering of photobioreactors.

5.1 Biorefinery based production strategy

Like a petroleum refinery, a biorefinery uses every component of the biomass raw material to produce useable products. Because all components of the biomass are used, the overall cost of producing any given product is lowered. This approach can be used to reduce the cost of making microalgal biodiesel. In addition to oils, microalgal biomass contains significant quantities of proteins, carbohydrates and other nutrients. Therefore, the residual biomass from biodiesel production processes can be used potentially as animal feed. Some of the residual biomass may be used to produce methane by anaerobic digestion, for generating the electrica power necessary for running the microalgal biomass production facility. Excess power could be sold to defray the cost of producing biodiesel.

5.2. Enhancing algal biology

Genetic and metabolic engineering are likely to have the greatest impact on improving the economics of production of microalgal diesel. Genetic modification of microalgae has received little attention. Molecular level engineering can be used to potentially. 1. Increase photosynthetic efficiency to enable increased biomass yield on light. 2. Enhance biomass growth rate. Increase oil content in biomass. 3. Improve temperature tolerance to reduce the expense of cooling. 4. Eliminate the light saturation phenomenon so that growth continues to increase in response to increasing light level.


5.3. Photobioreactor engineering

Although a capability for reliable engineering and operation of tubular photobioreactors has Photobioreactors tubes operated with high-density culture for attaining high productivity. The frequency of light–dark cycling depends on several factors, including the intensity of turbulence, concentration of cells, optical properties of the culture, the diameter of the tube, and the external irradiance level. Bioprocess intensification approaches that have proved so successful in improving the economics of various biotechnology based processes have been barely assessed for use with photobioreactors.


As demonstrated here, microalgal biodiesel is technically feasible. It is the only renewable biodiesel that can potentially completely displace liquid fuels derived from petroleum. Economics of producing microalgal biodiesel need to improve substantially to make it competitive with petrodiesel, but the level of improvement necessary appears to be attainable. Studies on the exploration of alternate fuels obtained from renewable sources of energy to supplement conventional fossil fuels are being carried out throughout the world. The edible and non edible oils are being tried to either supplement or to replace diesel as fuel in CI engines. India is the net importer of edible oils and, therefore, emphasis is being laid to explore the possibility of using non-edible oils or their esters to be used in diesel engines alone or blended with diesel. Producing low-cost microalgal biodiesel requires primarily improvements to algal biology through genetic and metabolic engineering. Use of the biorefinery concept and advances in photobioreactor engineering will further lower the cost of production. In view of their much greater productivity than raceways, tubular photobioreactors are likely to be used in producing much of the microalgal biomass required for making biodiesel. Photobioreactors provide a controlled environment that can be tailored to the specific demands of highly productive microalgae to attain a consistently good annual yield of oil. From the previous discussion it is clear that algae are a very potential candidate for biodiesel production which, in turn, may lead to self sustainability in Indian energy sector. Countries like India have a great potential to grow algae massively due to having enough bare cultivating areas that is mainly water bodies for algae production. Algae are fast growing organisms, so obtaining much more biomass in short time span is not impossible. Most of the species are not edible so there is no feedstock involvement issues associated with biodiesel production from algae. Only much more attention, comprehensive and synergized research works on this field can promote biodiesel production from algae at a grand success.


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