Biodiesel & Algae

Posted in General at 7:02 am by Dennis Brown

My brother-in-law Lee was asking me about algae “farming” for biodiesel production, so I decided to add a few links. Keep in mind, some algae are considered more animal than plant, so maybe the term should be “ranching” or perhaps “algae husbandry”. Anyway, these links were combined into a single post to make it easier to find the data, so here they are:

1. Aquatic Species Program at Wikipedia

2. Algaculture at Wikipedia

3. Growth Media for Algae from the University of Texas

4. Biodiesel page at Wikipedia

5. US Dept. of Energy Report on Algae for Biodiesel (PDF file)

6. From Algae to Biodiesel is a report from students researching the idea.

Of course, there are many more, but these provide a nice starting point. On a personal note, I don’t think that biodiesel from algae is going to solve all the world’s problems, but i *DO* think it offers the highest potential for a suppliment to our exisiting petro diesel infrastructure. This is because algae can produce 5,000 to 20,000 gallons of oil per acre, which is many times more than ANY know plant, and it can be done at different scales, even for someone who wants to “farm” less than an acre.

One of my interests is in finding out how well a diesel generator will run on straight oil from algae, (not converted to biodiesel) or a blend of bio or petro diesel and algae oil. This has the potential to make a tremendous impact not only in major power generation, but for personal power generation as well. The methods for extracting the oil from algae are simple (a press) and growing algae isn’t exactly rocket science, although you do need a proper medium in the water for maximum growth potential. Interesting stuff.

The biggest advantage is that if we tried to make biodiesel from soybeans replace all the gasoline we use in the US, we would have to plant every square mile with soy and still not have enough. They say with algae, it would take 3% of the land mass in the US, which is a bit more realistic. At the very least, it offers the chance to suppliment current fuel, using existing infrastructure, and lets individuals create their own fuel without large tracts of land.


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