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Algae used a biofuel is inching closer to reality

As companies look for alternative fuels to help ease the world's reliance on oil, researchers and companies have created several viable alternatives.   

The aerospace industry hopes algae can be refined and used to help fuel commercial airliners and jets.  In the short term, it's likely algae would be mixed with gasoline and diesel, though it's possible algae could be used to eliminate both resources at some point.

Select Boeing aircraft will use a mix of jet fuel and fuel made from algae and jatropha seeds, Boeing said.  Continental Airlines will be the first airline company to use algae as a fuel, with Air New Zealand and others expected to begin testing algae or jatropha-based technologies.

Continental's first demonstration flight is expected to take place in Houston on Jan. 7, though the flight will not carry passengers and use a blend of jet fuel with algae and jatropha.

Even with the backing of Boeing and other aerospace giants, algae supporters must now request the federal government give them loans, research and development backing, tax breaks, and other similar perks that corn and soybean researchers are actively receiving.

"We are up against formidable opposition from competing interests," said Jason Pyle, Sapphire Energy CEO.  Sapphire Energy has created a new "green crude" gasoline that is entirely made up of algae.

Algae for use as a biofuel has been more widely researched in the past few years, and it seems like it will continue to be a popular topic.  

The Colorado Field Institute (CFI) will host a biotech meeting with Colorado State University to discuss the use of algae as a biofuel later this week.  The focus of the meeting is the use of algae biofuel in rural Colorado.

Researchers will continue to look for alternatives to gas, but even with major research breakthroughs, it's unlikely the heavy U.S. reliance on foreign oil will end any time soon.  Ethanol, a popular technology that still receives major research, caused the cost of food to soar, and much work will have to be done in order to make ethanol a more viable solution or to develop a satisfactory alternative.

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This or hydrogen
By FITCamaro on 12/9/2008 10:34:09 AM , Rating: 5
The only things that we should spend our time on. Ok and bio-diesel(which this is really). Ethanol is a joke and needs to die.

RE: This or hydrogen
By Lord 666 on 12/9/2008 11:05:17 AM , Rating: 2
Hopefully Obama removes the $3 billion subsidies for ethanol along with the 2005 import tax on foreign ethanol.

RE: This or hydrogen
By FITCamaro on 12/9/2008 11:51:43 AM , Rating: 4
I laughed when I read that.

RE: This or hydrogen
By quiksilvr on 12/9/2008 3:41:10 PM , Rating: 2
I usually don't agree with FITCamaro did I.

It is ridiculously easy to cut the energy fat we have now. Use CFL bulbs. Sell that SUV you don't use for anything but looks and get a fuel efficient car. Get rid of that tube television and go LCD. Upgrade your PC to a Core 2 Duo machine if you are still running P4s. Insulate your water heater. Get an AC filter that last for years and only needs to be washed once a month (I forgot what those things were called!). This has to be done now.

RE: This or hydrogen
By Murloc on 12/9/08, Rating: 0
RE: This or hydrogen
By ggordonliddy on 12/9/2008 6:05:10 PM , Rating: 4
> Sell that SUV

I hate most SUV usage myself, but how will that make a difference if it will just mean someone else using the SUV?

RE: This or hydrogen
By Spuke on 12/9/2008 7:26:43 PM , Rating: 3
I agree. The best thing you can do for the environment (if that's a priority with you) is recycle. Recycle everything. No new cars, no new homes, no new clothes. Get what you can secondhand. It's difficult but doable.

RE: This or hydrogen
By FishTankX on 12/10/2008 2:16:35 AM , Rating: 2
There is already a fuel that can run in diesel engines, produces no carbon dioxide when burned, produdces almost zero pollutants, is an excellent hydrogen carrier (can be disassociated) and has proven storage, distribution, and production technologies.

What is this mystery fuel that has so many perks to it??


RE: This or hydrogen
By SilverShadow on 12/9/2008 7:45:38 PM , Rating: 1
Quote: "Get rid of that tube television and go LCD."

We're on 240V AC over here, don't know what sets over there are like.

Panasonic CRT TV, TC-29R20 (68CM/29")
Power Consumption: 130 Watts

Toshiba CRT TV, 3350DE (83CM/33")
Power Consumption: 140 Watts

Rowa CRT TV, RTM-804 (80CM/31")
Power Consumption: 150 Watts

Akai CRT TV, CT34X4AV (86CM/34")
Power Consumption: 180 Watts

AWA LCD TV, LTW32DS (81CM/32")
Power Consumption: 150 Watts

NEC LCD TV, NLT32XT1 (81CM/32")
Power Consumption: 170 Watts

NEC Plasma TV, PXT-42XD2 (106CM/32")
Power Consumption: 350 Watts

Panasonic CRT Rear Projection TV, TX-51P15H (129CM/51")
Power Consumption: 188 Watts

Samsung DLP/LCD Rear Projection TV, SP-46L5HX (116CM/46")
Power Consumption: 170 Watts

Sony DLP Projector, VPL-CS7
Power Consumption: 240 Watts

That seems to be the general wattage of TV's going by the sets that I've got here. I'm looking forward to good solid-state lighting, I'd imagine all those street lights that cover the place are chewing up a bit of power.

RE: This or hydrogen
By PrinceGaz on 12/9/2008 10:05:23 PM , Rating: 2
Street lights do use a lot of energy, but they use it far more efficiently than any other form of lighting in use today. The old sodium-vapour street lights with their characteristic yellow-orange light that have been around for decades are still more efficient in terms of useful light-output than the best modern LEDs and other lighting technologies. It's just a shame that they have been replaced at least locally here in Britain with more natural much fuller spectrum white lights, which might make things look better, but almost certainly use more power for a given brightness.

Solid-state lighting will no doubt be the most efficient in the long-run and may become common place for LCD TVs, though that may be superseded by OLED TVs, or just possibly SED TVs (though I think disputes over licening of SED technology may have consigned it to an early death).

Street-lighting with the ancient sodium-vapour lights is still the most efficient way of lighting a large area with electric lights today.

RE: This or hydrogen
By FITCamaro on 12/10/2008 9:00:04 AM , Rating: 2
Or let people buy whatever the f*ck they want that is for sale.

Sure I agree with a lot of what you said. But if someone wants an SUV, let them buy one. Some prefer the light incandescent bulbs give off compared to CFLs. Some like their tube TV since they don't have to worry about color reproduction issues or response times. For some a P4 is fast enough.

Seriously. Switching your light bulbs saves you a few bucks a year. Even leaving your PC on 24/7 only costs you a few dollars a month on your power bill. Even with a P4.

RE: This or hydrogen
By quiksilvr on 12/10/2008 4:06:55 PM , Rating: 2
It's attitude like that that's causing problems today in society. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE. If you replace 10 60W bulbs with 10 13W bulbs (place them in lamps if you're so damn picky about how your shine looks like) you alone save 470W. Doesn't really seem like much considering its only one house. Multiply that by 10 million. 4.7 GIGAwatts. And SUV's are fine; Honda's CR-V and Toyota's Highlander hybrid are really efficient and as said previously, recycling is the best method. There are some car companies that will take your old SUV for recycling and gives you a discount deal on their cars.

Suppose you change your P4 computer to a Dual Core processor. The HP Slimline costs $400 bucks and its MORE than enough for people and only takes 180 W. A P4 machine takes around 400W. So you save around 200W. Again, doesn't seem like much. Multiply it by 10 million. Over 2 GIGAwatts. Its the little changes that adds up and in time will really make a difference.

And switching our light bulbs saved us on average 30-40 bucks a month. Over 400 bucks in savings a year. Big picture.

RE: This or hydrogen
By Kary on 12/10/2008 5:56:32 PM , Rating: 3
Hoping people will do what you consider to be the right thing is just wishful thinking... a 60W bulb costs less than a dollar (I think, I haven't bought them in a long time) vs $2 or so for a 13W bulb. The fact the lower watt bulb pays for itself in under a year doesn't sink in for most folks.

Also, some applications might NEED incandescent lighting (though I have no idea why).

Recycle your old SUV and buy a new car....yeh, that makes more economic sense than reselling your used car.

The only way you can change what people do in a free society is to make the better alternative more attractive to the people.

RE: This or hydrogen
By quiksilvr on 12/11/2008 12:14:44 PM , Rating: 2
At CostCo you can buy a 10 pack of CFL bulbs for 9 bucks. And as I said, you can just put these in lamps (not bright, brighter, brightest nor dimmable, just regular lamps) and forget about it.

And recycle your old SUV to get a DISCOUNT on a new car (obviously don't do this if you aren't in a financially sound situation).

And...yeah I can't argue with that point. Consumers will only get something if its shiny.

RE: This or hydrogen
By Screwballl on 12/9/2008 1:19:10 PM , Rating: 3
Hopefully Obama removes the $3 billion subsidies for ethanol along with the 2005 import tax on foreign ethanol.

You really did not pay attention during the election did you? He would rather put sanctions and tariffs on imports just like the Democrat president did during the Depression...

RE: This or hydrogen
By oab on 12/9/2008 2:15:26 PM , Rating: 4
Um... it was Hoover who started the hyper-aggressive protectionist trade policies, that 50% tariff on all goods coming into the US? Hoover, not FDR.

RE: This or hydrogen
By Lord 666 on 12/10/2008 6:41:57 AM , Rating: 2
Obama also said he was going to use federal money for his campaign, but then changed his mind and instead used private funding with zero restrictions.

RE: This or hydrogen
By Souka on 12/9/2008 12:27:45 PM , Rating: 2
Two different gas stations near where I live are selling "BIODIesel".

Upon closer inspection, "this product contains %5 soy-derived diesel".

Nice.... so is this typical? only %5 is actually "Bio", the rest is petroleum based?

RE: This or hydrogen
By RU482 on 12/9/2008 2:16:33 PM , Rating: 2
I think part of the problem is, if you put B100 in a vehicle with alot of miles, you'll wind up with a clogged fuel filter due to the cleaning effect Bio-D has on the fuel system

RE: This or hydrogen
By ggordonliddy on 12/9/2008 6:06:06 PM , Rating: 2
What is "%5"? It is "5%".

RE: This or hydrogen
By Kary on 12/10/2008 5:59:24 PM , Rating: 2
It is common practice to mix the 2 and I believe that colder climates require lower percentages of BIO in the Diesel to keep it flowing in cold weather (it will freeze up in the fuel lines otherwise).

RE: This or hydrogen
By Ringold on 12/9/2008 2:02:57 PM , Rating: 2
As far as aviation fuel goes, hydrogen at least probably won't be viable there for a long, long time. Tanks are heavy, refueling too slow, etc. Ethanol has all kinds of problems for use in aviation, too; all the ones involved in using it in cars (but magnified because weight is much more important), along with difficulty spotting contamination in fuel samples (water dissolves).

Algae and similar ways of deriving fuel will be the only way to go for aviation. It's being done in the lab by many groups, just have to sit back and wait for someone to figure out how to mass produce it cheaply.

RE: This or hydrogen
By Kary on 12/10/2008 6:01:46 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder what the Hindenburg used for fuel.

If they used hydrogen then their fuel tanks were really light (when I say for fuel, I mean to make the ship move, not burn)

RE: This or hydrogen
By Doormat on 12/9/2008 3:04:37 PM , Rating: 2
So essentially this. I think H2 is a red herring as far as fuels of the future go, its out there to muddy the waters and distract from real development.

One of the other numerous benefits to the algae fuel generation is the energy intensive "cracking" process that occurs on diesel and aviation fuel from oil are not required for algae->fuel processes.

To me the energy future seems obvious - algae supplementing and eventually replacing oil for aviation, diesel, and other products where plug-in hybrids don't make sense.

RE: This or hydrogen
By FITCamaro on 12/9/2008 3:07:51 PM , Rating: 2
Plug in hybrids don't make sense period. Instead of burning gas you're instead using batteries that wear out and are toxic. Do we really want billions of batteries being thrown out every 7-10 years?

RE: This or hydrogen
By Doormat on 12/9/2008 5:47:39 PM , Rating: 2
The batteries can be recycled - put to other uses. Even after a battery is "worn out" after 7-10 years, they can still retain 60-80% of their original charge capacity. The Altairnano batteries get around 10,000 cycles before the battery is at 80%. At 2 cycles per day, thats 13 years. From there, they're still useful and can go into grid backup, replacing generators or backing up renewable energy. They'll find other ways to be used. Short of an energy storage miracle, batteries from Volt wont be in the landfill anytime in the next 20 years.

Great Idea
By Gzus666 on 12/9/2008 10:08:39 AM , Rating: 2
OK, so I've noticed we have two Michaels blogging here now. I have an idea for a show. It could be a show about a blog about two bloggers blogging for the same site and are bitter enemies or greatest of friends with the same first name (Simon and Simon anyone?), work out the kinks later. They could be bloggers by day and solve crimes at night in some blogtastic way.

RE: Great Idea
By masher2 on 12/9/2008 10:19:04 AM , Rating: 3
We already do solve crimes at night. At least, I wear a cape...

RE: Great Idea
By Gzus666 on 12/9/2008 10:22:32 AM , Rating: 2
And tights? Also, do you need an agent? I think I can sell this idea to Fox.

RE: Great Idea
By Lord 666 on 12/9/2008 10:22:44 AM , Rating: 4
Did you ever watch the Incredibles? Never wear the cape as it will only get caught on something while you are testing out your anti-gravity gun. Capes are too much of a liability.

RE: Great Idea
By Yawgm0th on 12/9/2008 11:27:43 AM , Rating: 1
RE: Great Idea
By foolsgambit11 on 12/9/2008 2:40:03 PM , Rating: 2
Meh. I prefer for them to keep to their "Even Stepvhen" routine.

RE: Great Idea
By Gzus666 on 12/9/2008 2:51:53 PM , Rating: 2
Either way. I'm toying with names for the show like: MichaelĀ² (Michael Squared), The Blogtastic Bus, Blogman, Dirty City Clean Blog. I will have to think more about it.

RE: Great Idea
By mrteddyears on 12/10/2008 8:58:16 AM , Rating: 2
The good the bad and the blogers for the movie

RE: Great Idea
By Gzus666 on 12/10/2008 9:44:19 AM , Rating: 2

But could we please
By rcc on 12/9/2008 10:41:10 AM , Rating: 2
Couild we please make sure that this will work, and be economically viable before we go for full scale production? Or turn the Caribbean Sea green(er).

RE: But could we please
By FITCamaro on 12/9/2008 10:55:21 AM , Rating: 2
I believe the idea of this is to create diesel and jet fuel (and they already can) that will run in a diesel or jet engine without any modifications to the engine.

RE: But could we please
By rcc on 12/9/2008 2:12:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, now all they have to do is make it scale economically.

RE: But could we please
By foolsgambit11 on 12/9/2008 2:47:37 PM , Rating: 2
Well, first, it would be good to make sure it works. That is, make sure the results are actually perfectly interchangeable with fossil-based diesel, jet fuel or gasoline. Then, make sure that it is actually 'greener' than the product cycle for the fossil fuels it is replacing, or at least green enough such that the trade-off could be worth it for the sake of energy security. Finally, you work on making it economically viable.

Of course, you can work on all three tracks at once, to some extent. The flight test is a good check of whether it works, at least as a blend. The linked article talks about tests on viability, scaling, and, potentially, greenness. And, of course, we probably shouldn't waste money on projects that have no good chance of becoming economically feasible in the first place. But whether this ends up being a good technique or not, the research and testing should produce valuable data that can be used for future development.

RE: But could we please
By FITCamaro on 12/9/2008 3:10:05 PM , Rating: 2
I don't care if it's "greener" as long as its functionality is the same. That being to run my engine. But yes it would be "carbon neutral" since all the carbon in the fuel comes from carbon dioxide that was in the air and captured by the algae.

RE: But could we please
By foolsgambit11 on 12/11/2008 6:05:59 PM , Rating: 2
That was in the air, or was to be put in the air - like the algae test plant in Spain. But sometimes, things that seem like they should be carbon neutral or carbon sinks turn out, upon investigation, to be carbon producers. Look, for example, at the current studies of ethanol production - not every way you can make ethanol is good for the environment.

I was speaking in generalities about 'green' research concepts, not about algae in particular. But even when the process at its heart looks to be environmentally friendly, externalities may make it unfriendly. I don't envision problems with this tech, but I threw it out as part of the research and implementation process for 21st century 'green' technologies.

Algae based biofuels
By owyheewine on 12/9/2008 10:08:48 AM , Rating: 5
The fuels are not algae, but are recovered from the little buggers. There have been several simular stories in the press in the last couple of weeks. This is the most technically incorrect one that I've read.

RE: Algae based biofuels
By acer905 on 12/9/2008 10:26:07 AM , Rating: 5
Yeah, the article does seem a bit confusing on that part... It would be like saying that using E85 is just putting corn in your gas tank.

By nosfe on 12/9/2008 10:19:42 AM , Rating: 5
Lord Percy: After literally an hour's ceaseless searching, I have succeeded in creating gold, pure gold.
Blackadder: Are you sure?
Lord Percy: Yes, my lord. Behold.
Blackadder: Percy... it's green.
Lord Percy: That's right, my lord.
Blackadder: Yes, Percy, I don't want to be pedantic or anything, but the colour of gold is gold. That's why it's *called* gold. What you have discovered, if it has a name, is "green".
Lord Percy: Oh, Edmund, can it be true, that I hold here in my mortal hand a nugget of purest green?
Blackadder: Indeed you do, Percy, except, of course, it's not really a nugget, it's more of a splat.
Lord Percy: Well, yes, a splat today... but tomorrow - who knows, or dares to dream?

RE: green
By foolsgambit11 on 12/9/2008 2:49:54 PM , Rating: 3
Damn, I already posted. So +1 for Black Adder reference, I say instead of do.

This will never take hold in the US...
By Screwballl on 12/9/2008 1:00:49 PM , Rating: 2
... at least for the next decade or two. Not as long as that corrupt bastage Daschle is sitting high. He was mediocre as a Governor for South Dakota, but as a federal employee he is just as corrupt as the rest.
He will see to it (along with Iowa and Nebraska Congressmen, with others) that corn not be taken off or removed from its high perch simply because their states benefit from the artificially high corn prices caused by the corn-to-ethanol program. Combine that with joined forces with big-oil who have resisted alternative fuels since day 1 and you have a massive uphill battle of bureaucracy on your hands.

As soon as I find a self-sufficient atomic or "self-charging battery powered truck (not scooter or tiny car, I am 6'5"), I am making the switch.

Maybe I will do some inventing and put magnets to work.

RE: This will never take hold in the US...
By FITCamaro on 12/9/2008 1:22:10 PM , Rating: 2
Actually in all likelihood oil companies would own the algae farms. Why buy oil from elsewhere and refine it when you can just own a greenhouse and get the end product? The oil companies only gain by embracing this.

By bodar on 12/9/2008 10:01:52 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. Making money is making money, and if you know a tech is going to take off, it's probably a good idea to get in on the ground floor, esp. when it threatens your current business model.

I just hope they don't just take the music industry's route of "stand fast and buy off Congress". This is far more important than music, after all. I'm just waiting for the corn lobby to screw this all up, but I'm a "glass is half-full... of poison" kinda guy.

By DigitalFreak on 12/9/2008 12:28:26 PM , Rating: 2
Even with the backing of Boeing and other aerospace giants, algae supporters must now request the federal government give them loans, research and development backing, tax breaks, and other similar perks that corn and soybean researchers are actively receiving.

Better yet, let's take all the perks that we are wasting on corn and soybean researchers and give them to groups like this who can produce a product without driving up the prices of foodstuffs.

By Kary on 12/10/2008 4:51:32 PM , Rating: 2
Ok, as much as I hate being a grammar nazi, please change that to something more like "Algae use as biofuel is inching closer to reality"

(Unless your article really is about algea driving vehicles powered by biofuel)

By Chipper Smoltz DT on 12/11/2008 12:25:39 AM , Rating: 2
Or are we going to just harvest them from the oceans and seas? As far as I know, algae are one of the main source of food for some species of fish including whales. I know that some species of whales consume only - algae. Will we deprive some of these species of their food by harvesting these algae? Or is this a different sort of algae that is not the one being used for food by these fishies? "confused"

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