Algae-based biofuels: applications and co-products

Jul 2010

The possible competition for land makes it impossible to produce enough first generation biofuel to offset a large percentage of the total fuel consumption for transportation. As opposed to land-based biofuels produced from agricultural feedstocks, cultivation of algae for biofuel does not necessarily use agricultural land and requires only negligible amounts of freshwater, and therefore competes less with agriculture than first generation biofuels. Combined with the promise of high productivity, direct combustion gas utilization, potential wastewater treatment, year-round production, the biochemical pathways and cellular composition of algae can be influenced by changing cultivation conditions and therefore tailored on local needs. On the other hand, microalgae, as opposed to most plants, lack heavy supporting structures and anchorage organs which pose some technical limitations to their harvesting.
The reasons for investigating algae as a biofuel feedstock are strong but these reasons also apply to other products that can be produced from algae. There are many products in the agricultural, chemical or food industry that could be produced using more sustainable inputs and which can be produced locally with a lower impact on natural resources. Co-producing some of these products together with biofuels, can make the process economically viable, less dependent from imports and fossil fuels, locally self sufficient and expected to generate new jobs, with a positive effect on the overall sustainability.
This document provides an overview of practical options available for co-production from algae and their viability and suitability for developing countries.

By: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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