NBB program helps develop 'slime's' future as fuel

By | September 18, 2009
The scope of research targeted at algae was evident as more than 100 research and industry leaders gathered for Algae-to-Energy in the South, a regional summit examining algae's potential as a renewable energy resource held late this summer.

Ted Abernathy with the Southern Growth Policies Board captured the yet unknown potential for algae at the event. "When this started, it seemed interesting," he said. "Now it seems really interesting."

The National Biodiesel Board has been proactively supporting research and development of algae's potential, as well as honing algae extraction techniques. NBB's feedstock program, with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, is working with Richard Sayre, the director of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, to further develop a non-destructive oil extraction process-sometimes referred to as "milking the algae"-that is capable of continuously removing oil from living algal cultures. The program is considering which strains perform best and how the process may benefit production efficiency by removal of contaminants.

Noting biodiesel's role as a sustainable component of our fuel supply, Sayre said, "Biodiesel is going to be very important for transportation. Oil-based systems and biodiesel are really going to be the future."

Sayre explained that oil-based fuels, such as biodiesel, have many benefits. They boast twice the energy density of alcohol, oil-producing plants have reduced impact on the environment, and algae-based biodiesel can be produced on land not suitable for other uses, and results in more oil per acre than what is currently available.

The Center for Evergreen Energy, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association and the Southern Growth Policies Board hosted the event, where academic and industry experts from 10 states reported on the wide range of algae-based research underway around the country.
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