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Algae Cultures to Biofuels

Heather Sommers Molluscan Aquaculture April 25th, 2007


What is Algae

Basics Types Importance Biodiesel

Making algae into a fuel source

History History



How to Culture

What is Algae?


Simple plant Most live in water Photosynthetic

Capture light energy Convert inorganic to organic matter

Nonvascular Use lipids and oils to help float in water Range from small, single-celled species to complex multicellular species, such as the giant kelps


Red Algae


Benthic Macro

Single celled Silica cell wall Vertical migration Fix N2 from air Freshwater Toxic; suck out O2 Cause red tides Organic matter

Green Algae

Blue Green Algae

Chlorophyll a and b Plants Freshwater

Brown Algae


Benthic Macro Kelp Marine



Most habitats Over 36,000 species Photosynthesis All have chlorophyll food, fertilizer, foodstock, pharmaceutical, pollution control, water treatment, dyes, agar, Fuels

How many

How does it feed?


Biodiesel History

From 1978 to 1996 the U.S. Department of Energy funded a program to develop renewable transportation fuels from algae
The main focus of the program was known as the Aquatic Species Program (or ASP) Production of biodiesel from high lipid-content algae grown in ponds Utilized waste CO2 from coal fired power plants

(Department of Energy. 1996)

Why make it a fuel?

Algae can be used to make biodiesel Produces large amounts oil

When compared to terrestrial crops grown for the same purpose Algae contain anywhere between 2% and 40% of lipids/oils by weight Once harvested, this oil can be converted into fuels for transportation, aviation or heating Warm Seasons

High growth rate and easy to grow

Amphora sp. Tetraselmis suecica Monoraphidium minutum

Cold Seasons

Use of diatoms and green algae

Harvesting Biodiesel

Microalgae have much faster growth-rates than terrestrial crops Algal-oil processes into biodiesel as easily as oil derived from landbased crops Use microalgae

Less complex structure Faster growing rate High oil content Open-pond systems

How to harvest

Can be difficult Type of algae has to be hardy Can be less hardy and grow slower

Use Bioreactor Tubes Use existing infrastructures

Provides the raw materials for the system, such as CO2 and nutrients Changes those wastes into resources. (Solix BioFuels. 2006)


(Enhanced Biofuels & Technologies Ltd. 2007)

How to get oil


Algae is dried Oil content can be "pressed" out with an oil press Extracts 70-75% of the oils out of algae Uses chemicals (such as hexane and methanol) Can be harmful and explosive Cold press & hexane solvent = extract 95% of oil CO2 is liquefied under pressure and heated to the point that it has the properties of both a liquid and gas This liquefied fluid then acts as the solvent in extracting the oil Can Extract almost 100% of the oils Expensive equipment

Hexane Solvent Method

Supercritical Fluid Extraction

Oil Yield
Gallons of Oil per Acre per Year

Corn . . . . . . . 15 Soybeans . . . .48 Safflower. . . . . 83 Sunflower . . . 102 Rapeseed. . . 127 Oil Palm . . . . 635 Micro Algae . .1850 [based on actual biomass yields] Micro Algae . .5000-15000 [theoretical laboratory yield]

Cultivating Algae for Liquid Fuel Production (; 2005

Other Uses


Algae can be grown to produce hydrogen


first in 1939 by Hans Gaffrom Late 1990s it was found that if sulfur deprived, algae will produce hydrogen


Algae can be grown to produce biomass


to produce heat and electricity Can still produce greenhouse gases

Biomass Yield
Metric Tons per Hectare per Year

Algae.....51.1 [USA average, 1978] Sugarcane.....79.2 [Brazilian average, 2005] Sorghum.....70 [India average, 2005] Cassava.....65 [Nigeria average, 1985] Oil palm.....50 [Global average, 2005]

Cultivating Algae for Liquid Fuel Production (; NREL, 2005

Algae is easy to grow Can produce a high yield of oil Oil can be processed into biodiesel Help to solve dependence on fossil fuels Can be better for the Earth


Cultivating Algae for Liquid Fuel Production (; NREL, 2005 Department of Energy, Office of Fuel Development. Aquatic Species Program. 1996. Enhanced Biofuels & Technologies Ltd. 2007. Accessed: Guiry, M.D. and Blunden, G. (Eds) 1991. Seaweed Resources in Europe: Uses and Potential. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-92947-6 Mumford, T.F. and Miura, A. 1988. 4. Porphyra as food: cultivation and economics. p.87 117. In Lembi, C.A. and Waaland, J.R. (Ed.) Algae and Human Affairs. 1988. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0 521 32115 8 John Sheehan, Terri Dunahay, John Benemann and Paul Roessler, "A Look Back at the U.S. Department of Energy's Aquatic Species Program-Bio-diesel from Algae, Closeout Report", July 1998, NREL/TP-580-24 190 Michael Briggs, Widescale Biodiesel Production from Algae, University of New Hampshire, Physics Department, revised August 2004. Sheehan, J., T. Dunahay, J. Benemann, and P. Roessler. 1998. A look back at the U.S. Department of Energys aquatic species program - Biodiesel from algae. US Dept. Energy, Office of Fuels Development, Nat. Renewable Energy Lab., Golden, CO. Solix BioFuels, 2006. accessed: Websites: