Algae Fuel Could be Huge: The Future of Biofuels?

algae-fuel-us-navyI’ve been hearing a lot about algae fuel lately. Of course biofuels have been around for a while- namely ethanol. But biogas and biodiesel in general have a certain, although questionable future. When it becomes cost-effective, and space allows for the development of these renewable fuel alternatives, we will likely see a huge increase in the consumption of biofuels, namely algae fuel.

One of the main problems with biofuels in general is- space. Although renewable, the space needed for example to make ethanol out of corn is tremendous. The production alone burdens the food supply, and the economy as a whole.

There is not as much of a space problem with algae fuel. It grows in a small area, and it could be done indoors. Available space is a huge obstacle with other biofuels. But algae fuel can be made in a building, built tall. In other words, space is not a problem.

Cost is still a problem though. But the US Navy has done a ton of research and development with algae fuel, and it is showing to be highly favorable to the future of biofuels.

The Navy is mixing algae fuel with jet-fuel:

“For the upcoming static and flight tests, the biofuels will be mixed in a 50-50 blend with conventional petroleum-derived jet fuel to provide the necessary specification properties. Biofuels are not as dense as conventional jet fuel, have less lubricating ability and contain no aromatic compounds, a group of chemical compounds able to penetrate the rubberlike materials that make up gaskets and seals.”

See Fuels Team Plans Super Hornet Biofuels Flight Test.

Big-Time investors are jumping on algae fuel:

Along with the US Military, Bill Gates, and Exxon-Mobil are also heavily invested in algae fuel. Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science calls it the Gold Rush for Algae, and lists many of the huge corporate investors. Over one-billion-dollars has been invested in algae fuels since 2007. I’d call that validation.

Unlike crude, algae fuel burns clean:

“Algae fuel is currently the most promising of all first or second generation biofuels. Experts are still understandably cautious; however, as there are still hurdles to overcome before algae fuel can compete economically with crude oil and other fossil fuels. Finding strains of algae that produce reliably high yields, avoiding contamination, developing cost-effective growth chambers, and efficiently harvesting oil from the cells are the main hurdles.”

That, according to Justin Arntd at Penn State, in a piece entitled, Crude Oil vs Algae Fuel.

We all know about the political ramifications when it comes to biofuels in general. While the US government spends a fortune on clean-air, this time they just might hit pay dirt.

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