Fuel and Algae

We are now coming to grips with the reality of the end of cheap oil and the ultimate rationing and reallocation of oil resources to highest and best usage. If transportation could be shifted onto another protocol, then we will gain hugely by the simple diversion of oil to the petrochemical business. There would be enough supply to last a fully developed global economy a very long time.

This means that it is time to revisit the promise of algae production. First off, certain stains of algae produce a huge amount of biological oil and can be easily stimulated to do even better. It has been calculated that while the best oil seed can produce around 1000 liters per hectare, algae can produce 10,000 liters per hectare. This is both huge and extremely compelling. Obviously a major investment in product development is called for.

It also appears likely that the by product dry or wet can be fairly easily made into a feedstock for ethanol production. And the combination of ethanol and the biological oil is a viable diesel fuel in its own right without even further processing. of course, it will be better to do some form of fractionation to split out higher valued components. It is just not necessary.

At the present, the cheerleaders of this technology are thinking of placing this technology out in the deserts were a few thousand square miles will readily supply all our fuel needs. I doubt that would be a good idea.

The practical solution will be to develop the economic model around a farm gate. After all you require the hands on maintenance and growing expertise that an experienced farmer can provide.

If we imagine a 2 hectare algae growing facility, perhaps using inexpensive vinyl tubes with a three foot diameter to hold the working medium as I have seen demonstrated, then we can model the necessary handling equipment and resources. Fertilizer and nutrients need to be continuously introduced and product will need to be removed at the rate of perhaps 2 tons per month.

That is still quite a little facility. The two tons will need to be squeezed for oils and the byproduct will have to be placed into a fermenting vat for several days. However that two tons is very transportable using the equipment every farmer has available.

The important thing is that this can be completely within the parameters of any working farm and particularly those farms that are under utilizing the land resource because their principal business is growing a chickens (for example). This would interfere very little with the demands of such an operation.

And the gross revenue will be ten times that experienced with any other oil crop. That is very attractive. Even at ten cents a liter earned that is still still double the return on any other oilseed crop.

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