No doubt, the energy requirement for mankind is increasing significantly day by day. We all know the major source of this energy is fossil fuels. However, the fossil fuel companies are nowadays facing a terminal decline because of:
- the scarcity of fossil fuels
- the rising price of petroleum-based fuels
- the strict government policy on climate and energy security targets
- the falling demand along with higher investment risks due to the competition from clean technologies
So, this actually opens up an opportunity to develop different types of biofuels as alternative energy resources. However, a clean initiative has been already taken to create third-generation biofuels to avoid the disadvantages of first and second-generation biofuels. In this regard, algae are considered a potentially renewable resource for biofuels. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy has already reported that algae have the potential to yield approximately 30 times more energy than the land-based crops, currently used to produce biofuels.
In addition, algae are proven extremely beneficial in efficiently recycling atmospheric carbon. While algae are accountable for producing 2% of global plant carbon, they absorb almost 50% of atmospheric CO2 and convert it into organic carbon. Moreover, they produce more than 50% of global oxygen through photosynthesis. According to a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency, algae-based biofuels made from fatty acid methyl transesterification can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by greater than 60% compared to petroleum diesel. So, it is hard to ignore the advantages of using algae-based biofuels.
Biofuels from Algae
Algal biofuels have all the efficiencies, just like carbon-neutral fuels or fossil fuels. In fact, there are many microalgae species that contain a significant amount of lipid content. So, they can be easily used for harvesting as well as transformed into biodiesel. In fact, algae can be easily grown on any non-arable ground as long as it has direct access to water. Additionally, they can be used to produce green diesel. In fact, they are capable of producing approximately 300 times more oil per unit compared to traditional crops like rapeseed, palms, soybeans, or jatoba. However, there are mainly three ways to grow algae for biofuels production, and they are:
- Open Pond System
- Closed-Loop System
While the open pond system is probably the easiest way to produce algae, the closed-loop system is more efficient and quick in producing algae than the previous one. Compared to both of these two, running a photobioreactor is a costly investment, but it guarantees a very high output of algae for producing biofuels.
Benefits of Using Algal Biofuels
The followings are the benefits of using algal biofuels:
- Algae biofuels are a completely renewable resource. So when there is a need for greater supply, we can easily meet that need by growing more algae to produce more biofuels.
- Algae biofuels play a major role in reducing the country’s energy dependence.
- Algae fuels are completely biodegradable and non-toxic as they don’t contain sulfur.
- Algae fuels are more environmental-friendly compared to fossil fuels.
All of these benefits are really encouraging for us to explore more about the algae biofuels to avoid the disadvantages of first and second-generation biofuels.