Economical Biodiesel Fuel from Algae
We all want to live in a clean and green world and breathe pollution free air. For this kind of environment we desperately need a fossil fuel free world. Scientists are toiling hard to come up with alternative fuels which can replace conventional fuels. One such study was presented at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. This study throws interesting light on the first economical, eco-friendly process to transform algae oil into biodiesel fuel. The scientists are quite hopeful that one day America will become independent of fossil fuels. Ben Wen is the lead researcher and vice president of United Environment and Energy LLC, Horseheads, N.Y. According to him, “This is the first economical way to produce biodiesel from algae oil. It costs much less than conventional processes because you would need a much smaller factory, there are no water disposal costs, and the process is considerably faster.”
Processing cost is a great hurdle for manufacturing biodiesel from algae. But New York researchers claim that their pioneer method is at least forty percent cheaper than the current manufacturing processes. We already have necessary infrastructure for supply of biodiesel fuel. Amount of algae is also not a problem. We have abundance of algae growing in the major water bodies of the world, be it ocean, lakes or rivers. The research team calls this method “continuously flowing fixed-bed.” According to the team members, this process will not produce wastewater which causes pollution. Ben Wen also explains that algae has an “oil-per-acre production rate 100-300 times the amount of soybeans, and offers the highest yield feedstock for biodiesel and the most promising source for mass biodiesel production to replace transportation fuel in the United States.”
They are also using a proprietary solid catalyst developed in their laboratory. Other biodiesel producing firms are using liquid catalysts. Liquid catalysts cannot be used again and again but solid catalysts can be utilized repeatedly. The second key advantage of having a solid catalyst is that a continuous flowing production of biodiesel can be maintained. The same is not true with liquid catalysts. Using liquid catalyst is time consuming too. Workers have to take extra half hour after producing each batch to create more biodiesel. Liquid catalyst is present in the biodiesel. So to get rid of the liquid catalyst workers need to purify the biodiesel by neutralizing the base catalyst by adding acid. But by using solid catalyst no such action is needed.
Ben Wen is trying to test the new waters. He is thinking big. According to him, his firm is currently conducting a pilot program for the process with a production capacity of nearly 1 million gallons of algae biodiesel per year. Depending upon the size of the machinery and the plant, he said it is possible that a company can produce up to 50 million gallons of algae biodiesel every year.
But this is not all. There is icing on the cake. Wen explains further that the solid catalyst continuous flow method can be tailored into mobile units so that smaller companies wouldn’t have to construct plants and the military could use the process in the field.