|Holy Sustainble Cow! Ordinary Algae Can Double as Biofuel and Cattle Feed, Too|
The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced $9 million in funding for research into the use of algae that occur naturally in seawater to produce a sustainable twofer: renewable algae biofuel and algae fodder for cattle, too. Hey, make that a threefer: studies have found that an algae diet can reduce methane emissions from cows, which is a major source of greenhouse gasses.
The funds will go to a Hawaii-based group called Cellana, LLC Consortium. The use of naturally ocurring algae is an interesting twist on current research, much of which is focused on engineering new strains of algae for biofuels. It’s also interesting because the consortium leader, Cellana, is a joint venture of renewable energy startup HR BioPetroleum and oil industry giant Shell – yes, that Shell. I guess biofuels makes strange bedfellows but if it gets the job done, let’s do it.
Cellana and Sustainable Biofuel from Algae
Cellana’s pilot plant in Hawaii uses garden variety marine microalgae (well, not just any algae — it’s carefully selected from thousands of potential candidates), cultivated in open seawater ponds. From a sustainability perspective, the use of saltwater species is noteworthy in the context of concerns over the future of global freshwater supplies. After extracting algal oil for biofuel, the process yields quantities of biomass containing protein and carbohydrates, 100% of which can be used as animal feed, primarily as a replacement for fishmeal. The federal grant will go to tweak the process in order to optimize the production efficiency, which is needed in order to design commercial scale facilities without overwhelming available supplies of land on which to site them. The value-added potential from sales of animal feed could also help make large scale facilities commercially viable, even if the biofuel feedstock itself is pricier than petroleum products.
Many Roads to Sustainable Algae Biofuel
SOURCE: GO Media - Written by Tina Casey - Image: Algae by suavehouse113 on flickr.com.