Today some possible problems with algae including; not enough biomass recovery for them to be commercially viable and the need for very advanced bioreactors/photo bioreactors. There is also a need to developed technologies for harvesting, oil extraction etc. at low cost (1). Another problem is that biofuels break down faster than fossil fuels, it can sometimes be corrosive and contain contaminants but there are companies such as SP (Sweden’s Technical Research Institution) that help with these issues and run researches as well (2). New technologies such as genetic engineering are also being explored to enhance the production of biofuels from algae and get rid of some of the problems mentioned above (1).
Algae as a source for biofuel is a good option because of its easy and rapid growth, it can therefore be cultivated in large scales such as having the production in large open ponds strategically placed. In this way the process can use carbon dioxide from nearby power plants that are coal-fired thus having a greater control over nearby emission (1,3). The fatty acids that are extracted from the algae is not all that can be used for a specific purpose, the carbohydrates can be used to make ethanol and from other parts of the algae bio gas can be made (2).
Algae can be grown in large ponds, as mentioned earlier but also in places such as pools, tanks and bioreactors. This quality can provide purpose to location that today are not suitable for production of food, such as deserts, waste land and even wastewater. The efficiency of the fatty acid production is profitable and usually around 20-50% but depending on which specie the oil content can be up to 80%. Compared to other crops such as corn and soybean that have an oil yield of 18 - respectively 48 gallons/acre, algae have a oil yield of 6000-14000 gallons/acre (3). Today the lipid production from algae is done in open tanks and bioreactors, commonly in China, USA, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan and Israel (1). These methods can be applied in other countries as well, an interesting idea is the opportunities in developing countries and also usage of large desert areas that are available but not used for any specific purpose.
1. Banerjee, C., Dubey, K. and Shukla, P. (2016). Metabolic Engineering of Microalgal Based Biofuel Production: Prospects and Challenges. Front. Microbiol., 7.
2. Sp.se. (2016). SP Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut. [online] Available at: https://www.sp.se/sv/Sidor/default.aspx [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016].
3. Thomas DN (David N, Natural History Museum (London E. Seaweeds. Natural History Museum; 2002. 96 p.