Algae Biofuel to Break the $50/ Barrel Mark

The price for a barrel of oil is on the rise again and as a result the interest in alternative fuel is on the rise. A startup has recently partnered with Dow chemicals (I know, not the best reputation) to exploit their new method of farming algae for biofuel production. Their new process can decrease the price per barrel of biofuel to $50 or lower.

Algae-based biofuels come closest to Joule’s technology, with potential yields of 2,000 to 6,000 gallons per acre; yet even so, the new process would represent an order of magnitude improvement. What’s more, for the best current algae fuels technologies to be competitive with fossil fuels, crude oil would have to cost over $800 a barrel says Philip Pienkos, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. Joule claims that its process will be competitive with crude oil at $50 a barrel. In recent weeks, oil has sold for $60 to $70 a barrel.

Joule’s process seems very similar to approaches that make biofuels using algae, although the company says it is not using algae. The company’s microorganisms can be grown inside transparent reactors, where they’re circulated to ensure that they all get exposed to sunlight, and they are fed concentrated carbon dioxide–which can come from a power plant, for example–and other nutrients. (The company’s bioreactor is a flat panel with an area about the size of a sheet of plywood.) While algae typically produce oils that have to be refined into fuels, Joule’s microorganisms produce fuel directly–either ethanol or hydrocarbons. And while oil is harvested from algae by collecting and processing the organisms, Joule’s organisms excrete the fuel continuously, which could make harvesting the fuel cheaper.

Algae Airplane Fuel Packs Power

A recent test flight of a unmodified airliner that used an algae-based biofuel was a great success! This is good news for air travelers as it will mean that their carbon footprint will be greatly reduced when airliners switch to the more efficient biofuel.

The test by Houston-based Continental, the fourth-largest U.S. airline, is a step toward the International Air Transport Association’s goal of having member carriers use 10 percent alternative fuels by 2017 to reduce global warming. The European Union will cap airline carbon-dioxide emissions beginning in 2012.

“We’re watching as different countries set carbon-reduction targets,” Leah Raney, Continental’s managing director of global environmental affairs, said in an interview. “We have been working very diligently to reduce our carbon footprint over the last 10 years.”

Aviation accounts for about 2 percent of global CO2 emissions, IATA estimates. More-fuel-efficient planes have helped Continental trim its output of heat-trapping gases 35 percent, Raney said.

Fuel of Future

U.S. carriers are testing alternative fuels after prices for traditional jet kerosene, which is derived from crude oil, surged to a record $4.36 a gallon in July. Jet-fuel prices have since collapsed about 60 percent amid a deepening recession.

“This demonstration flight represents another step in Continental’s ongoing commitment to fuel efficiency and environmental responsibility,” Chief Executive Officer Larry Kellner said in a statement. “The technical knowledge we gain today will contribute to a wider understanding of the future for transportation fuels.”

Another Algae Find for Biofuel

Researchers in Thailand have found another species of algae that is a promising biofuel. This of course, should come to no surprise to regular Things Are Good readers because I love how algae will save us all, just look at all these good news algae posts.

Dr Leesing is confident that the algae can be effectively farmed for industrial biodiesel production as early as next April. She was also keen to stress that a KKU-S2 facility would not require much space. Quoting statistics from the US, she estimated that up to 136,900 litres of oil per hectare could be produced from the small green algae, compared with only 172 litres from corn.

The discovery is likely to prove of interest to producers looking for alternatives to biodiesel produced from food-based sources such as corn or soy, which have been criticised for their contribution to global food shortages, as well their negative impact on local biodiversity.

Algae Good For Most Strokes

Algae is freaking awesome! Here’s more information on the goo of goodness: it can be used as fuel for nearly any engine.

I’m utterly convinced that if we heavily funded algae research we could create amazing fuels, clean the air, and basically save the world.

ome oils created by algae might be appropriate for fueling a motor vehicle; another might be more suited for home heating oil; and yet another might be the right type to power an airplane. While we’re at it, some algae oils might also provide useful for other products, in the same vein that omega 3 fatty acids make fish such a popular and healthy product.

In fact algae’s are quickly turning into the star of the biofuel world. It does not require masses of farmland to produce, and can use wastewater instead of diverting freshwater. And with fuel prices skyrocketing, water availability a real and present issue, and the loss of farmland for these products a concern, algae comes out on top in all categories.

And though it could take 10 to 25 years before algae-based biofuel is readily available to the public, the possibilities are huge. Erick Rabins, vice president of Allied Minds, based in Quincy, Mass, and interim manager of the startup company between Allied Minds and UW, says that “The most optimistic assessment that I’ve heard is that it could be six to eight years before there’s something that’s useable, but the tools and techniques to make it possible are being created right now.”

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