Millions in Algae Biofuel Research Grants Made Available by UK's Carbon Trust (UPDATED)

algae close-up photo

photo: Jaime Brown

Don't just take it from me that algae is one of the few feedstocks under consideration for biofuel that can be produced in enough quantity to replace significant amounts of current liquid transport fuel demand: The Carbon Trust thinks so too.The UK-based climate change advocacy organization has just launched the Algae Biofuels Challenge to increase R&D; funding for advancing algae-based biofuels to the commercial level.

The Carbon Trust had this to say about the potential of algae:Algae = 6 to 10 Times the Energy Per Hectare of Other Crops

Beyond 2020, algae-based biofuel has the potential to replace a significant proportion of fossil fuel used in road transport and aviation, saving hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon every year globally whilst creating an industry worth tens of billions of pounds.   For example, initial forecasts suggest that algae-based biofuels could replace over 70 billion litres of fossil derived fuels used worldwide annually in road transport and aviation by 2030 (equivalent to 12% of annual global jet fuel consumption or 6% of road transport diesel).  This would equate to an annual carbon saving of over 160 million tonnes of CO2 globally and a market value of over £15 billion.

The challenge is to produce this second generation algae-based biofuel cost effectively at scale. If successful, algae could deliver 6 to 10 times more energy per hectare than conventional cropland biofuels, whilst reducing carbon emissions by up to 80% relative to fossil fuels. Also, unlike traditional biofuels, algae can be grown on non-arable land using seawater or wastewater. Therefore, using algae as a biofuel feedstock avoids many of the negative environmental, ecological and social impacts associated with first generation biofuels.

£3-6 Million in Grants Available
To make this a reality, the Carbon Trust has committed to providing £3m-£6m ($4m-$10m) in funding for the initial stages of the project.

Phase 1 will provide grants to fund research addressing the following topic areas: Isolation and screening of algae strains suitable for open pond mass culture; Maximising solar conversion efficiency in mass culture; Achieving both high oil content and high productivity in mass culture; Sustained algae cultivation in open ponds; Design and engineering of cost effective mass culture systems.

Phase 2 of the Algae Biofuels Challenge will begin one year into Phase 1 and last for five years. It will focus on scaling up and integrating processes developed in Phase 1, constructing and operating a multi-hectare test and demonstration plant.

Applications Accepted Until December 15th
Applicants seeking funding in Phase 1 can apply for grants "in the region of" £500,000 from October 23-December 15, 2008. Though most TreeHugger readers probably won't themselves be applying for grants, should you want to you can fill out the Algae Biofuels Challenge Expression of Interest.

Total program costs for the Algae Biofuels Challenge are expected to be in the £20-30 million ($32-48 million) range, with £10-16 million ($16-19 million) of that coming from the Carbon Trust itself.

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