UK initiates algal fuel project

The world's biggest publicly funded project to make transport fuels from algae has been launched by the Carbon Trust, an independent company set up by the British government to hasten the move to a low-carbon economy, the Guardian reported. The trust hopes to make the project a commercial reality by 2020.

Given their high reproduction rate and the few resources needed to grow them, algae are seen as a potential way to generate sustainable biofuels. The UK plan could see up to US$41 million spent on developing the technology and infrastructure to ensure that algal biofuels replace a significant proportion of the fossil fuels used by British drivers.  

"Algae are potentially attractive means to harvest solar energy," said John Loughhead, executive director of the UK Energy Research Council. "They reproduce themselves, so there’s no manufacturing cost for the solar converter. They can live in areas not useful for food or similar productive use. They don’t need clean or even fresh water so don’t add to global water stress, and can give oils, biomass or even hydrogen as a product. Perhaps they’ll be the stem cells of the energy world." 

The Carbon Trust forecasts that, by 2030, algae-based biofuels could replace more than 70 billion litres of fossil fuels used globally every year in road transport and aviation. Transport accounts for one-quarter of the Britain’s carbon emissions and is the fastest growing sector.   

See full story