Oil from algae; salvation from peak oil?

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Publication date: 2009-05-01
First published in: Science Progress
Authors: C.J. Rhodes


A review is presented of the use of algae principally to produce biodiesel fuel, as a replacement for conventional fuel derived from petroleum. The imperative for such a strategy is that cheap supplies of crude oil will begin to wane within a decade and land-based crops cannot provide more than a small amount of the fuel the world currently uses, even if food production were allowed to be severely compromised. For comparison, if one ton of biodiesel might be produced say, from rapeseed per hectare, that same area of land might ideally yield 100 tons of biodiesel grown from algae. Placed into perspective, the entire world annual petroleum demand which is now provided for by 31 billion barrels of crude oil might instead be met from algae grown on an area equivalent to 4% of that of the United States. As an additional benefit, in contrast to growing crops it is not necessary to use arable land, since pond-systems might be placed anywhere, even in deserts, and since algae grow well on saline water or wastewaters, no additional burden is imposed on fresh-water – a significant advantage, as water shortages threaten. Algae offer the further promise that they might provide future food supplies, beyond what can be offered by land-based agriculture to a rising global population.

Published in: Science Progress, Volume 92, Number 1, May 2009, Pages 39-90
Available from: IngentaConnect

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