What Is Algae Fuel ?

Algae fuel, also called algal fuel, oilgae, algaeoleum or third generation biofuel , is a biofuel from algae. Compared with second generation biofuels, algae are high-yield high-cost (30 times more energy per acre than terrestrial crops) feedstocks to produce biofuels. Since the whole organism uses sunlight to produce lipids, or oil, algae can produce more oil in an area the size of a two-car garage than an entire football field of soybeans.

Though there are many factors to overcome for algae to be a wide-spread source of energy, several positive factors can already be considered. Algal fuels do not impact fresh water resources, and can use ocean and wastewater. The cost of various algae species is typically between US$5–10 per kg dry weight, with research actively looking to reduce capital and operating costs and make algae oil production commercially viable.

Algae grow rapidly and can have a high percentage of lipids, or oils. They can double their mass several times a day and produce at least 15 times more oil per acre than alternatives such as rapeseed, palms, soybeans, or jatropha. Moreover, algae-growing facilities can be built on coastal land unsuitable for conventional agriculture.

The hard part about algae production is growing the algae in a controlled way and harvesting it efficiently.

Most companies pursuing algae as a source of biofuels are pumping nutrient-laden water through plastic tubes (called "bioreactors" ) that are exposed to sunlight (and so called photobioreactors or PBR).

Running a PBR is more difficult than a open pond, and more costly.

With the record oil price increases since 2003, competing demands between foods and other biofuel sources and the world food crisis, there is much interest in algaculture (farming algae) for making vegetable oil, biodiesel, bioethanol, biogasoline, biomethanol, biobutanol and other biofuels.

The production of biofuels to replace oil and natural gas is in active development, focusing on the use of cheap organic matter (usually cellulose, agricultural and sewage waste) in the efficient production of liquid and gas biofuels which yield high net energy gain. One advantage of many biofuels over most other fuel types is that they are biodegradable, and so relatively harmless to the environment if spilled.

The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers), which is a few thousand square miles larger than Maryland, or 1.3 Belgiums. This is less than 1/7th the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000.

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