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Algae to Biodiesels fuels Public Companies, Governments

written by: Swagatam •edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 4/20/2011

Is algae the next big source of fuel for American public companies? Already many companies are investing in producing algae biodiesel fuels. Airlines and the U.S. military are also targeting large-scale production of oil from algal ponds to convert it into jet fuel.

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    Over 25 major public companies are producing biofuels from micro algae ... at higher production costs. The production of biofuels from microscopic algae in particular is not yet a commercial reality, but oil giant Exxon Mobil has announced a $600 million investment for producing fuels from algae from pond scum and sea weed.

    Open unlined ponds and larger undeveloped algae mass culture need to be updated. Selection and maintenance is a priority to achieve high productivity of biomass containing high percentages of vegetable oils or biofuel. These are currently major constraints which require cost effective solutions using solar energy. Long term research and development of waste water treatment is also envisaged, mainly due to the higher cost of production systems.

    A. Fuel production system B. Photosynthesis 

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    Growth of Algae

    Global warming depends, in part, on the quantity and distribution of algae in the oceans. The earth and the oceans are major sources of oxygen and food. Any effects on algae in the oceans may have implications in other parts of the biosphere.

    Fresh water and marine algae may be obtained from biological sources. Salt water algae may also be used as a suitable substitute. Algae are photosynthetic. Sufficient sun light and placing the algae cultures at suitable temperatures promotes photosynthesis.

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    Types of green algae

    algae algae algae algae Green algae golden brown - this is not algae 

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    The green algae are primitive source of Plantae. Other types of algae are different from the primitive source. Land plants were evolved from green algae several million years ago. Oceans cover 71% of the earth's surface and algae produce 71% of the oxygen for the earth. Algae eliminates large quantities of carbon dioxide from the air, and carbon dioxide is a major cause of global warming. Algae prevents climatic changes. Algae is part of all food chains in the ocean; fish cannot live in the oceans without algae.

    Bubble, Caulerpa, Coralline, Diatom, Slime, Hair, and Halimeda are some of algae categories. These can be good or bad types of marine algae or seaweeds. Colored varieties of brown, green, and red algae are preserved in salt water. Brown or golden color diatom algae are not true algae.

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    Production of Biofuels from Algae

    Algae is very rich in oil. It consumes twice its weight of carbon dioxide. Good cropland is not necessary for farming algae. Algae grow in fresh water, polluted water, and sea water. Algae is a potential source of biofuel feedstock. Solution Recovery Services Company has developed a transformational patent-pending technology that increases algae lipid yields significantly of 40-60% by dry weight.

    production plant Production Unit 

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    A Single Step Oil Extraction Method

    This is a new singe step oil extraction system designed by the OriginOil company. This new technology is far simpler and efficient than prevailing systems. The process of harvesting, extracting oil out of algae, and separating oil and water and the biomass is done in one step. The duration of the process is less than an hour. This Company has found a new process known as "quantum fracturing technology." It uses controlled electromagnetic pulses and pH modification to break cell walls to release oil from the algae cells.

    Continuous algal oil extraction system

    Cavitation Technologies, Inc. has developed a cavitation-based extraction technology capable of extracting oil from algae on a continuous basis. CTI’s Nano reactor creates cavitation bubbles in a solvent material. It creates shock waves when these bubbles collapse near the cell walls, and the liquid jets cause cells walls to break. Consequently the algae release their contents into the solvent.

    single step oil extraction method 

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    Marketing Status

    Solazyme Company recently contributed $52 M for algae fuel production. Solazyme has promoted algae based fuel to the market. Chevron and Japanese food manufacturer San-Ei Gen have also participated. Investor interest has substantially increased.

    Solazyme has delivered 1,500 gallons of jet fuel made from algae. This was sent for certification. Solazyme is also producing food ingredients and health products so that oil from algae can be used as a substitute.

    Large public companies are also investing in producing algae biodiesel fuels. Airlines and the U.S. military target large-scale production of oil from algal ponds converting it into jet fuel.

    Production of biodiesel from algae is found to be the only feasible method which can totally replace petro-diesel. It has the capacity to produce high oil yield. Algae has high yield or oil per acre of cultivation. It is estimated that 10 million acres of land is necessary for biodiesel cultivation in US. This amounts to just 1% of total land used currently for farming and grazing in US (about 1 billion acres). There is no doubt that algae are superior feedstock for large scale biodiesel generation.

    However, from a practical point of view, biodiesel production on a large scale basis from algae cultivation may take about 4 to 5 years.


    Algae fuels production technology is commercially successful. However, the main constraint is algae cultivation problems. Large amounts of land space are required for high yield algae cultivation.

    A new technique of increasing yield of algae by cultivating it in plastic containers is claimed to use seven times more algae, but presently this is just speculation.

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    Related Reading

    Bright Hub, Inc.: Can Algae Fuels replace Fossil Fuels?

    WiseGeek: What is Algae?

    European Biofuels Technology Platform (EBTP) - Production of Biofuels

    Algae Energy: Cultured Micro Algae produces Omega-3 Bio-Lipid Oil

    All images are from Wikipedia Commons

    Pubic companies investing in algae fuels

    GIGaom - - Algae fuels long road to the pumps

    Oilgae - Publication for the algae fuel industry

    Green Chip Stocks - Algae Biofuel Stocks - Algae Shows More Promise

    Renewable Engergy World - News about renewables

    Government funding development of algae fuels

    Greenair - UK Government to provide research and development funding for algae-based transport biofuels

    GreenTech - The Return of Fed-Funded Algae Fuel Research