Algae Based Biofuels in Plain English: Why it Matters, How it Works

by Dave

Triple Pundit

You’ve probably heard the term tossed around, and have maybe even said it in a sentence or two yourself. But have you ever really understood what it means, what the implications are, and on a basic level, how it works and if it has even the slightest chance to be a viable large scale player in supplying for our fuel needs? For many of you, I’m imagining the answer is no. Even I, a green business consultant, was quite fuzzy about it all. Until today.

Today I came across a video put out by the folks at Valcent, which makes absolutely clear, and absolutely exciting, the what, how, and how much of algae based biofuels, and in particular how their method, via High Density Vertical Bioreactors, they will do it much better. Say what?

Algae, according to the Valcent video, is the fastest growing plant
in the world, and in the process of this, absorbs a great deal of CO2. It
also produces lipids, or the equivalent of vegetable oil. Depending on
the species, 50% of it’s body weight is these lipids. And they can
select for certain algae strains that are particularly suited for
making jet fuel or diesel

According to the Valcent video, an acre of corn can produce 18
gallons of oil/year. Really? That sounds terribly inefficient to me.
Palm oil produces 700-800 gallons/acre. Respectable amount, but its
cultivation has been a frequent issue due to unsustainable cultivation
practices (Read: chopping down the rain forest) Algae,
even in a regular, horizontal, open pond system, can produce up to
20,000 gallons of oil per year.
This is including such factors as water
evaporation, growth inhibiting more growth below, and the accidental
introduction of foreign algae strains from the air. With algae biofuel
production, they can take what remains after extracting the oil, and
put it to use as feed stock for animals, as a component of fertilizer,
and even to produce even more biofuel.

See the video for yourself here.