Algal biofuel is currently unsustainable

  “Algal biofuels are not quite ready for prime time,” says Joel Cuello, co-author of a new report evaluating the alternative fuel’s current drawbacks and its potential in an article on online energy news site. Increasing the...

“The most effective way of addressing the challenges our report identified would be in an integrative approach addressing all the factors together - water, nutrients, energy, land use and greenhouse gas emissions,” Cuello says.

“There is the biological component - the algae, and the engineering aspect - cultivating, harvesting, and processing ,“ he adds, “and there has to be a conversation between the two. For example, you could have high-yielding algae that excrete the oil or its precursor, which would eliminate the need for harvesting the algae biomass in the first place.”

Similarly, by using wastewater from agricultural or municipal sources to grow and feed the algae, one could address both the water and the nutrient issue, and lower the energy demands in the process as well.

Cuello points out that the report should not come as a surprise to experts. “All of the federally funded research projects on algal biofuels are, at least indirectly, already working to address these concerns that we identified and explicitly stated because people have been aware of these challenges - though perhaps not with the degree of process integration that is required.”

The report was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy to aid the agency in its decision-making process regarding sustainable algal biofuel development.



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