From: The West.com.au - 29/07/2008
Murdoch University is studying how to convert algae into biofuel, a cheaper and cleaner option than traditional fossil fuels.
Biofuels such as ethanol have been hailed as a possible replacement for petrol or diesel because they are renewable and emit less carbon.
But the growing demand for biofuels has been blamed for forcing up food costs because they are made from crops such as corn, canola or sugar cane. A World Bank report this month found a third of US corn was sold for processing into biofuel because it was more profitable for farmers.
The green slime that settles on waterways and turns stomachs is a more promising option because it does not compete with food output, grows in salty water and yields up to 20 times more oil than other crops, says Murdoch professor Michael Borowitzka.
Once the oil has been extracted, the discarded algae can be used for animal feed or made into methane to burn for energy. The project’s 20 scientists will grow algae in massive saline ponds and distil it into fuel at sites in WA, India and China, using a $2 million Federal grant.
“WA is ideally placed for largescale algae biofuel production, given its sunlight, easily accessible saline water and non-arable land,” Professor Borowitzka said.
“For Australia to produce one per cent of biodiesel from algae, you’d need a 100sq km plant — which is small compared with up to 2000sq km for the same amount to be produced from canola.”