Background of Biodiesel Production from Microalgae

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Finding new energy resources to compensate the decrease of the world petroleum reserves is an important challenge. The estimation of the world crude oil reserves is a difficult task because it is influenced by political, economic and technological factors (Pirog, 2005). The proven oil reserves represent the amount of petroleum that could be obtained from depositsalready discovered with actual technological and economic conditions (Institut Fran?ais du Pétrole, 2005; Pirog, 2005). They also include the oil discovered, but that cannot be recovered with current technologies. In 2009, these reserves were estimated to be about 1,376 billion barrels (BP, 2011), which corresponds to a reserve that will last for 35 years (i.e. until 2045) (Shafiee & Topal, 2009).

According to a predictive model from Huber (1956), the proven reserves of oil should have reached a roof value by 2000, as the production of petroleum should begin to fall. In contrast, more recent data show that between 1989 and 2008, the proven oil reserves seem to have increased from 1006 to 1333 billion barrels (BP, 2011). On the other hand, while the world oil consumption was about 86 million barrels/day in 2006, it would reach 107 million barrels/day by 2030. The transportation sector would be responsible for 80% of this increase (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2009) and would consume 76% of the world oil production by 2030 (International Energy Agency, 2008).

Fossil fuel dependency, mainly in the transportation sector, has encouraged research on biofuels. A recent study shows that microalgae biofuels have the potential to replace 17% of oil imports in the United States used as transportation fuel by 2022 (Wigmosta et al., 2011). Moreover, following the BP oil spill in the Atlantic Ocean, the United States administration is considering reducing his oil imports by 1/3 by 2021 using, among others, biofuels (N.Banerjee, 2011).

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