A new survey from the US Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) has found the mood among America’s algae producers to be glass-half-full, with 65 per cent saying they plan to expand capacity in 2012. The survey found respondents optimistic that algal biofuels would be commercially available and competitive with fossil fuels by 2020 – with 90 per cent believing this to be at least somewhat likely; nearly 70 per cent, moderately to extremely likely. Nearly 20 per cent believed that algae-derived biofuel would be $US1.50/ gallon or lower, while nearly 50 per cent predicted it would be less than $US3.00/gallon by 2020. Unsurprisingly, nearly 90 per cent of the respondents agreed that supportive policy would accelerate the industry’s development, while 81 per cent said their company was likely to boost hiring with supportive policy.
“It’s clear from these results that the algae industry is moving forward with increased production and employment as well as continued scientific breakthroughs,” said Mary Rosenthal, executive director of ABO. “The survey confirms what we’ve said for years – that stable and equitable federal policy will only accelerate the development of an industry that can create a sustainable source of domestic fuels and jobs. We’ll continue to work with members on both sides of the aisle to educate them on the benefits of algae.” But government and industry aren’t the only groups who need educating, apparently, with about 99 per cent of respondents saying they felt the public needed to be informed about algae’s benefits, too.
Micro-algae, macro scale
Another company that’s feeling confident about its algal prospects is Spanish water management outfit Aqualia, which has announced plans to launch a commercial-scale demonstration project using waste water to cultivate algae for biofuel production – enough to fuel 400 vehicles, the firm said on Monday. Reuters reports that Aqualia, which is owned by construction and services company FCC, has commenced construction of algae culture ponds at a waste water treatment plant in Chiclana, northern Spain, which the company hopes will be able to produce 500 litres of biodiesel a year and 1,500 cubic meters of biomethane.
The project will cultivate fast-growing micro-algae using nutrients from waste water, and convert it into transport biofuels like biodiesel and biomethane. If the project is successful in producing 3,000kg of dry algae a day, with an oil content of 20 per cent, it will be ramped up to a commercial-scale 10 hectare operation that could produce 200,000 litres of biodiesel a year and 600,000 cubic meters of biomethane – enough to fuel 400 cars, Aqualia said at a briefing. Reuters reports that the European Commission has provided more than half of the funding for the €12 million project, as part of its plan to have 10 per cent of EU transport fuel derived from renewable sources by 2020.