40% Cheaper Algae Biodiesel Production Technique Touted

algae close-up photo

photo: Jaime Brown via flickr

Researchers at United Environment and Energy LLC in Horseheads, New York (yes, Horseheads...) have announced that they have developed "the first economical, eco-friendly process to convert algae oil into biodiesel." Which may be a bit of overstated, particularly the eco-friendly part, but considering that the process they've developed is claimed to be 40% less expensive than other procedures out there it's worthwhile paying attention:Ben Wen, vice-president of United Environment and Energy, says that the cost reductions are realized because their procedure can be done in much smaller facilities, has no water dispersal costs and is "considerably faster."

A key advantage of this new process, he says, is that it uses a proprietary solid catalyst developed at his company instead of liquid catalysts used by other scientists today. First, the solid catalyst can be used over and over. Second, it allows the continuously flowing production of biodiesel, compared to the method using a liquid catalyst. That process is slower because workers need to take at least a half hour after producing each batch to create more biodiesel. They need to purify the biodiesel by neutralizing the base catalyst by adding acid. No such action is needed to treat the solid catalyst, Wen explains.

He estimates algae has an "oil-per-acre production rate 100-300 times the amount of soybeans, and offers the highest yield feedstock for biodiesel and the most promising source for mass biodiesel production to replace transportation fuel in the United States." He says that his firm is now conducting a pilot program for the process with a production capacity of nearly 1 million gallons of algae biodiesel per year. Depending on the size of the machinery and the plant, he said it is possible that a company could produce up to 50 million gallons of algae biodiesel annually.

via: Science Codex
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