A new study from Bioresource Technology finds that algae-based biofuel can reduce CO2 emissions by 50 to 70 percent when compared to petroleum-based fuels. The study also found that algae biofuel is close to matching the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) of fossil fuels. The peer-reviewed paper concludes that algae is likely on par with or better than first generation biofuels and is poised to surpass advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol in terms of environmental and energy benefits.
Image © Scripps Institute of Oceanography
The study entitled Pilot-scale data provide enhanced estimates of the life cycle energy and emissions profile of algae biofuels produced via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) is the first to analyze data from a commercial-scale algae-to-energy farm. Researchers examined field data from Sapphire Energy facilities in Las Cruces and Columbus, New Mexico.
Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory recently concluded that 14 percent of land in the continental United States, or the combined area of Texas and New Mexico, could be used to grow and produce algae for conversion into transportation fuels. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy found that for algae fuel to completely replace petroleum in the United States it would need roughly 30,000 square kilometers of land, or half the area of South Carolina, so the potential is certainly there for a massive transition from dirty oil-based transportation fuels to cleaner burning domestic green crude from algae.
Lead image via Sandia Labs