Will algae beat its competitors to become the king source of biofuels?

Will algae beat its competitors to become the king source of biofuels?

As you may have read recently, the use of palm oil for the production of biofuels has come under criticism for bad farming practices in Indonesia, endangering orangutans and destroying ecosystems. Now an Arizona company claims they’ve developed a better and cheaper way to manufacture biofuel – using algae.

Algae - could be used to produce biofuels

The company, Diversified Energy Corporation, has developed a “breakthrough algae production system”, called Simgae, for simple algae. Using common agriculture components to produce algae, the system is substantially cheaper than other biofuel production systems, at $0.08 – $0.12 per pound. The algae produces oils and starches which can then be used for the production of biodiesel and ethanol.

The use of algae for biofuels has received attention recently as a promising source of biofuel oils, in contrast with the high prices of traditional sources. It has been shown to require 1/100th of the water per acre compared to other crops, and the carbohydrate and protein elements can be used for other purposes including feed and fertiliser. It is low maintenance and its ability to ingest carbon dioxide and excrete oxygen is attractive because it reduces carbon emissions.

However, the main obstacle preventing widespread mass production of algae for biofuel production has been the equipment and structures needed to begin growing algae in large quantities. Diversified Energy Corp have avoided this problem by taking a different approach, and growing the algae in thin walled polyethylene tubing called Algae Biotape(R), similar to conventional drip irrigation tubing, which can be incorporated into a normal agricultural environment.

The Vice President of Business Development for Diversified Energy, Jeff Hassannia, commented, “The renewable fuels industry is in dire need of feedstock oils that are low priced and readily available. Algae is the perfect solution to this challenge, while at the same time helping to clean up the environment. Simgae will finally offer a simple, yet elegant means of bringing algae to the market at very reasonable costs.”

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