Algae and biodiesel

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  1. Fundamentals

Principle of oil production by microalgae is the use of micro algae photosynthesis. First, convert the carbon dioxide in the process of chemical production into biomass of micro algae to fix the carbon. Second, convert the carbon material of microalgae into oil via induction reaction. Then, convert the oil in the microalgae cell microalgae and microalgae gasoline to the outside of the cell by physical or chemical methods, and finally refine them to produce biodiesel. That is, algae convert nutrients from wastewater and carbon dioxide from the air into biofuels and proteins, by photosynthesis.”It’s an industry that turns waste into treasure and can produce more downstream products.” With the sharply rising oil price and more and more serious food shortage, this industry has a broad development prospect.

  1. Development Prospect

Biodiesel production could reach tens of millions of tons if engineered high-oil algae are planted on a large scale in China’s vast coastal and inland waters. This is not out of reach. Under the active exploration of researchers, the domestic production of biodiesel from Marine microalgae has achieved gratifying results, and more ambitious projects are in the offing.

Some cities in China will sell “green oil” containing 5 percent microalgae biodiesel, Min Enze, an academician of the Chinese Academy of engineering, said in a speech at Huazhong University of Science and Technology. However, due to the cost and production conditions, it will take time for this kind of “green oil” to be promoted vigorously.

Academician Min Enze calculated that if clean fuel containing 5% biodiesel is promoted, the demand for biodiesel is 6 million tons based on the amount of petroleum used in China. The economic and ecological benefits of this technology are considerable.

  1. Microalgae diesel is expected to meet half of the country’s oil consumption

Under the microscope, algae look like an oil hyacinth, its oil content is seven to eight times higher than that of rapeseed and peanut, and more than ten times higher than corn. Li Naisheng, President of Shandong ocean engineering research institute, introduced that the production of biodiesel from Marine microalgae is a new direction in the field of international new energy.

Experts point out that China’s saline-alkali land area is 150 million mu. If microalgae were grown in 14 per cent saline-alkali fields, the technology could produce 50 per cent of the country’s oil needs.

Pan kehou, a professor at Ocean University of China, said microalgae are abundant and won’t damage the ecosystem for harvesting. In addition, its annual output per unit area is dozens  or even hundreds of times than that of grain with high photosynthesis efficiency and short growth. And microalgae lipid content is 20 to 70 percent, which is far from land plants. It not only can produce biodiesel or ethanol, but also is expected to become a new raw material for hydrogen production.

Min Enze, an academician, said that after using straw to produce ethanol and gasoline, using microalgae to produce biodiesel is the latest “green” fuel technology now. He thinks that there’re three hurdles to getting microalgae biodiesel on ordinary vehicles: the first one is cost. The microalgae fuel project has a long industrial chain. The cultivation cost of algae is very high, and the price of finished products is many times than that of oil. Second, microalgae biodiesel projects can only be produced on a large scale, while the production scale of various research institutions is very small. Third, it is difficult to find a suitable production site. In an algae culture, the algae are only 1 to 2 percent dense, and if they’re too dense, they can’t absorb sunlight. The high demand for sunlight and water for the growth of microalgae determines the need for large sites.

Microalgae is a bioenergy source with great potential, but the scale and cost are two major bottlenecks in the development of microalgae. Therefore, microalgae biodiesel technology should be regarded as a long-term enterprise, and the plan and route selection should be emphasized.

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