Friday, June 13, 2008

Are Bio-Fuels A True Alternative? Yes -5,000 Gallons an Acre

Yes and were not talking corn! It is algae. “One acre of algae can produce 5,000 gallons of biodiesel as compared to corn which produces 420 gallons per acre,” said Dr. Oliver Hemmers, the Director of Strategic Energy Programs at UNLV. Dr. Hemmers gave a presentation to the Nevada Biotechnology and Bioscience Consortium at their June meeting on biofuels. Asked how long it would take to produce 5,000 gallons, he went on to say, “One season. The longer and colder a winter is the shorter the period, similar to other crops. In warmer areas the production could be as high as 15,000 gallons per acre just because of the longer warm period.” Some of the proposed algae-based fuel projects have suggested building the systems next to coal burning power plants. The CO2 emissions could be used to feed the algae along with sun. Algae can capture up to 80% of the CO2 output of a plant which on average, produces over 5 million metric tons of CO2. A coal burning plant combined with an algae pond system could produce 156 million gallons of biodiesel a year, at $2.25 a gallon that would be $351,000,000 in revenue a year.

A number of the researchers at UNLV believe that an algae pond system should be set up next to the Reid-Garnerville plant outside of Moapa, Nevada (90 miles north of Las Vegas) and it could clean up one of the dirtiest per capita coal burning plants in the country and produce millions of gallons of biodiesel.

Dr. Hemmers said that Dr. Thomas Nartker, a chemical engineer at UNLV approached him about the potential of algae-based biofuels. A project like this would require scientists and engineers to work together. Because the algae grows exponentially, the challenge would be to effectively deal with the volume that is produced. These are good challenges.

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