It appears that algal biofuels could be a legitimate solution in the efforts to combat lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s the verdict of a study by ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, MIT and Synthetic Genomics in the paper Environmental Science and Technology.
Its study looked into how various technology options could affect greenhouse gas emissions and on-site freshwater consumption and it found that when produced in large volumes algae has the potential to produce huge amounts of fuel per unit area of production. Therefore, it could potentially expand transportation energy supplies without needing a significant displacement of land and water resources. However, the researchers do point out that algal production remains at an early stage of its research and development and that there may be many possible technology configurations.
It’s not the first time that the companies have looked into algal biofuel production. In 2009, ExxonMobil launched a new programme to research and develop advanced biofuels from photosynthetic algae that would be compatible with today’s fuels. Then in 2011, at the Algae Biomass Summit in Minneapolis, it provided a summary of its efforts to tackle the challenges of large scale production, including: achieving high bio-oil yields at lower costs; the best product systems for growing strains; establishing a bio-oil upgrading process compatible with existing refinery infrastructures; and determining the best product systems for growing strains.
For the latest study they looked at a small-scale open pond facility with three distinct oil recovery options: dry extraction, secretion and wet extraction.
Among its findings were that with wet extraction there is potential for more than 50 per cent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the energy balance can also be favourable. It also found that algal biofuels in saline systems using brackish makeup water can have freshwater consumption that compares to petrol fuels.
Original post available here.