Algae bioreactor  (Source: Autoblog Green)
Canada looks to algae as a biofuel source

The National Research Council (NRC) Canada  has dedicated 30 researchers and $5 million to a major research project in Halifax, Nova Scotia in an effort to promote the production of biofuel from algae

Since fuel sources like petroleum can cause air pollution, and harvesting such fuels can lead to disasterous oil spills, several areas around the world are searching for alternative energy fuels including Canada. The algal biofuel project will look for new ways to use the by-products of fuel production such as high-protein animal feed and nutriceuticals, and it will reduce aviation's "carbon footprint in anticipation of future carbon taxes." 

"Algae have huge market potential," said Dr. Danial Wayner, NRC Vice President of Physical Sciences. "Twenty-two billion gallons of biofuel were sold in 2009. Some commentators estimate that the biofuel industry represents a one-hundred billion dollar business opportunity."

Since algae feeds on carbon dioxide, the NRC along with Carbon2Algae, an algae-based CO2 solutions company, are working together to collect carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and several other facilities to help algae grow. The fuel produced from algae will result in clean energy and clean air. 

There are several other positives associated with the algal biofuel project such as the fact that algae does not compete with food production and does not require agricultural land. Also, it requires "little more than sunlight to grow" and NRC is only using local species of algae for now to reduce any risks to the environment. So far, the project has collected 64 species of algae where 24 of these have been brought into cultivation and a half dozen with exceptional oil yields are "under intensive scrutiny." The collection is expected to expand to hundreds of species through international collaboration with the U.S., and researchers will study strains that are acceptable for biofuel production.  

NRC was able to fund the money for this project through the National Bioproducts Program, which commercializes technologies that will have a positive impact on the environment, and the NRC Institute for Marine Biosciences, which is dedicated to finding alternative fuel sources. In addition to the NRC's $5 million, another $1.2 million was given by "both monetary and in-kind contributions through industrial and organizational partners." 

"NRC is collaborating with a number of industrial partners, including Ocean Nutrition Canada in Halifax, Menova Energy Inc. of Markham, Ontario, POS Pilot Plant from Saskatoon and the international consortium Carbon2Algae Solutions," said Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). 

"These firms are working closely with NRC to commercialize technologies in areas of algae cultivation, biomass handling, oil extraction and ultimately, fuel production."

In addition, NRC is working on the project with the U.S. Department of Energy. According to Goodyear, this collaboration represents "concrete action on Canada's commitments in the Canada-U.S. Clean Energy Dialogue by expanding clean energy research and development - one of the three objectives outlined in the agreement."

The project has generated one dozen jobs and is expected to create even more once the project increases to a larger scale. 

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