August 18, 2009

Talk will focus on algae as biofuel

Aug 16, 2009 (The Free Lance-Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Patrick Hatcher, the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium's executive director, will discuss growing algae to produce biodiesel fuel, on Monday at the University of Mary Washington.

The forum will begin at 6 p.m. in Combs Hall, room 139.

The consortium has pioneered an algae-to-biodiesel conversion system in which algae strip nitrogen and other potential pollutants from effluent as they grow. Harvested algae are converted by means of a proprietary chemical process into a biodiesel fuel that's more environmentally friendly than petroleum diesel.

Why algae?

The primitive, chlorophyll-containing organisms are among the fastest-growing plants in the world, and some common strains are potentially capable of producing more fuel per acre than any other biomass.

Algae also can be grown and processed in Virginia, and the fuel produced would provide jobs and create wealth at home. It also would reduce dependence on foreign oil and the cost of shipping it great distances.

Biodiesel created from algae burns cleaner than petroleum and coal products, and the complete cycle is carbon neutral. Algae also can be grown in waste and runoff water, thereby removing the nutrients that damage rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

Monday's program is being sponsored by UMW's Earth and Environmental Sciences Department and Biology Department.

Hatcher, who also is an Old Dominion University professor of chemistry and biochemistry, will also discuss selection and growth of algae in aquaculture, harvesting, removal of oils, and conversion to biodiesel fuel. There will be time for a question-and-answer session.

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