Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Apr 15

Economical Biodiesel Fuel from Algae

Posted in Biodiesel Fuel | Biofuels | Energy Inventions

Biodiesel 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.

  • kb1pkj

    Great news! That is phenomenal rate of production and per acre amount of biodiesel. That blows away even palm oil plants in gallons per acre. When can we expect to see these in regular usage ? Has Ben Wen got an exclusive property right?

  • Aaron Jonathan Klumker

    Up with alternative energies, but biodiesel is definitely not the best way. Wind and solar!

  • Bitty Martin Elizbaeth Ricketson

    I saw a show about this, it is really cool, it catches co2 from power plants that burn coal, the algae thrives on it, then some of it becomes oil. The algae itself can be processed into sugar ethanol, and the waste turned into animal feed. Super cool, removes the pollution, and all of its by products are useful. Now that is the kind of thinking we need in this country.

  • Syed Tamjidur Rahman

    I see a lot of potential in it and believe it is much better than making bio-diesel from corn and palm.

  • Fran Verhaest

    Come and get mine, my pond is full of algae…

  • Sofia Costa Madeira

    At least algae will not compete with food. There is enough hunger in the world already.

  • alex

    I have an old river terminal with 420,000 gallon capacity. Surrounded by farmland. Rail spur access available. I want to convert this to a biofuel terminal/refinery. Seeking advice and potential JV.

  • Michael Calleja

    Alex – saw your comment and thought maybe we should connect. We’ve got patented processes and have installed two biodiesel refineries. Cost effective and unique process provides high yield outputs.

    We can provide turnkey and maintenance agreement. US based with patents issued.

  • William

    We live in a land where most everything has been stolen or broken, and had recession for 12 years not just six months; so we try and make the most of what we do have. Sunshine, and Algae, being a couple. Please keep us updated, and would appreciate any info on how this might work on a small scale.

  • Mike

    I’ve heard that algae absorbs Arsenic and Mercury from the coal plant stack gases. If so, this could be a problem.

  • Donna

    I need your help. I have a student hoping to do a research project looking into some aspect of biofuels for an IB bio extended essay. He needs to create and conduct a research project that has a biological aspect not chemistry. Anyone out there that would have any good lit sources to research so I can help him can focus and then expand in his own way?

  • Patrick

    To Aaron: I think if we used wind and solar power to drive the biodiesel plants, that would be the best of both worlds. wind and solar power just aren’t very practical for non-stationary platforms

  • Mike Keesler

    I understand you have to use a specific strain of algae to make this work. Everyday algae is only good to make charcoal. How do you select the proper strain to get started?

  • Mike

    To Mike Keesler:

    Algae strains that are high in lipids are the best for making biodiesel because one needs the fats to make the esters.

    There are some strains with as high as 70% by dry wt. in lipids, but most are down in the 10-30% range.

    Genetic engineering may be the answer.

    On the other hand, algae pyrolysis to “bioleum” followed by conventional upgrading can produce a gasoline like fuel.

    Much work needs to be done!

  • Leslie

    So, it has been a year and a half since this article…could you update us on your current status? A group of us are looking at biofuels and want to present a panel discussion about developments in the field. Is this as good as it looks, or are there some elements missing? eg scalability, toxicity of the catalyst, infrastructure to transport and distribute product, willingness of distributors to incorporate product into the mainstream fuel product. Would love to know more!!
    Keep up the good work.

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