Algae no image

Published on October 23rd, 2008 | by Jerry James Stone

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UK Starts World’s Largest Algae Biofuel Initiative

October 23rd, 2008 by  
 

Great Britain hopes that algae-based biofuels can reduce automotive and aviation emissions by 2030, and cut overall emissions by 80% by 2050.

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While food-based biofuels are taking the heat for rising food prices, other solutions – like algae – are gaining a more serious following. For example, the UK’s Carbon Trust has announced plans for a project to make algae bio-fuels a commercial reality by the year 2020

But the situation is much more than some “food vs fuel” finger pointing. The fact that transport accounts for one-quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions is major driving factor – pun intended: it’s also the fastest growing cause of carbon emissions in the UK. If the government’s target to reduce overall emissions by 80% by 2050 is to be met, then initiatives like this are crucial.

The UK isn’t the first country to try such a monumental undertaking. There have been major efforts in the past to develop algal biofuels on a commerical scale.  Multilmillion-dollar projects funded by the US government during the 1980s found high biomass yields were definitely possible. The research fizzled out when no one found a way to make the product commercially competitive with the low petro prices for that era. One word – FAIL!

Large scale programs were also tried in Japan, but also to no avail.

The Carbon Trust forecasts that algae-based biofuels could replace more than 70 billion litres of oil every year. They hope to have the initiative in full effect by 2030. In carbon terms, this equates to an annual savings of more than 160m tonnes of CO2 globally!

The first stages of the project include investing in British companies involved in promising algae research.

“You can make algae with a very high oil content and you can make algae that grows very quickly and, at the moment, no one can do both,” said Robert Trezona, R&D director at the Carbon Trust.

It will take a multitude of approaches to fully realize the potential of algae. “There are many more different algae species than there are higher plant species so each algae will require specific effort. Each one will have its own peculiar requirements to figure out how to make them productive, how to get the right strains, how to harvest and process them. We cannot just depend on one or two companies.”

The second phase of the project starts around a year later and involves scaling up the algae-growing operation. The Carbon Trust will build multi-hectare open ponds to act as laboratories for the most promising algae technologies identified from the previous stage. Due to the UK‘s gloomy weather, these will most likely be built abroad. This phase of the project could see the Carbon Trust, and interested partners from industry, investing up to £20m.

“If you I’ve got 12 months a year of warmth and sunshine, your algae farm just produces much more biomass. In a world where costs will be important, UK algae farms would have a real problem,” said Trezona.

Mark Williamson, innovations director at the Carbon Trust, said: “We must find a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to oil for our cars and planes if we are to deliver the deep cuts in carbon emissions necessary to tackle climate change. Algae could provide a significant part of the answer and represents a multibillion-pound opportunity.”

So no need to burn your autos just yet, folks. Well…unless of course McCain wins. I don’t think even algae can save us from Sarah Palin’s energy expertise.

Image source: Jef Poskanzer on Flickr


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About the Author

is a web developer, part-time blogger, and a full-time environmentalist. His crusade for all things eco started twenty years ago when he ditched his meat-and-potatoes upbringing for something more vegetarian-shaped. His passions include cooking, green tech, eco politics, and smart green design. And while he doesn't own a car anymore, he loves to write about those too. Jerry studied at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. During his time there he was a DJ at the campus station KCPR and he also wrote for the campus paper. Jerry currently resides in San Francisco, CA with his cat Lola. You can stalk him on Twitter @jerryjamesstone.



  • Can’t believe you made me read all the way to the end just to understand the significance of the picture of the car on fire. One thing I’m a bit confused about though, how do biofuels reduce CO2 emissions? Burning them still produces CO2 doesn’t it, or am I being really thick?

  • Can’t believe you made me read all the way to the end just to understand the significance of the picture of the car on fire. One thing I’m a bit confused about though, how do biofuels reduce CO2 emissions? Burning them still produces CO2 doesn’t it, or am I being really thick?

  • Tim Cleland

    “Burning them still produces CO2 doesn’t it, or am I being really thick?”

    Yes, but the CO2 it produces was taken out of the air to grow the algae, so it’s just re-releasing it resulting in no net increase in CO2. In that way, algae would simply serve as an avenue to store solar energy in a liquid form.

  • Tim Cleland

    “Burning them still produces CO2 doesn’t it, or am I being really thick?”

    Yes, but the CO2 it produces was taken out of the air to grow the algae, so it’s just re-releasing it resulting in no net increase in CO2. In that way, algae would simply serve as an avenue to store solar energy in a liquid form.

  • LonnieB

    Dramatic pictures of burning cars to draw attention to an unrelated article, only to close the article with a biased political rant?

    Yeah, that’s real journalism!

    (Notice how that took all interest in the meat of the article away? Good work, Gonzo!)

  • LonnieB

    Dramatic pictures of burning cars to draw attention to an unrelated article, only to close the article with a biased political rant?

    Yeah, that’s real journalism!

    (Notice how that took all interest in the meat of the article away? Good work, Gonzo!)

  • Carlos

    “unless of course McCain wins. I don’t think even algae can save us from Sarah Palin’s energy expertise.”

    80% of global population thinks as you!!!!! ;-D

  • Carlos

    “unless of course McCain wins. I don’t think even algae can save us from Sarah Palin’s energy expertise.”

    80% of global population thinks as you!!!!! ;-D

  • Re: Bransby

    Good question, and what Tim Cleland said. Sorry I made you read all that to get the car joke, it just didnt fit anywhere else and I been dying to use that photo for 3 months!

  • Re: Bransby

    Good question, and what Tim Cleland said. Sorry I made you read all that to get the car joke, it just didnt fit anywhere else and I been dying to use that photo for 3 months!

  • Re: LonnieB

    Oh, the picture is completely related. It might take some dot connecting…but it’s there. I swear.

    Yes, that political rant is disgustingly biased. That is why I saved it for the end, I didn’t want to soil the meat of the article with it.

    But as the US uses 25% of the world’s oil, our next administration plays a huge role in this initiative.

  • Re: LonnieB

    Oh, the picture is completely related. It might take some dot connecting…but it’s there. I swear.

    Yes, that political rant is disgustingly biased. That is why I saved it for the end, I didn’t want to soil the meat of the article with it.

    But as the US uses 25% of the world’s oil, our next administration plays a huge role in this initiative.

  • Re: Carlos

    Yes, well let’s hope that most of that 80% is in the United States! How are these election polls even close?

  • Re: Carlos

    Yes, well let’s hope that most of that 80% is in the United States! How are these election polls even close?

  • LonnieB

    Well, Jerry< i re-read the article and I saw no dots connecting a burning AMERICAN vehicle (check the license plate) to an article about a BRITISH initiative.

    Nor do I see any connection between McCain/Palin (two AMERICAN politicians) and that same BRITISH-based article.

    If I seem harsh, it’s because I have grown extremely sick of yellow journalist who oh-so-wittily inject their own limioted political agenda or opinion into stories that should be reported honestly, completely and without journalistic bias.

    As a journalist, do you need to be reminded of the public trust placed in your profession? My own daughter is a broadcast journalist in the U.S. Army, and based on her expeiences in Iraq, Kuwait and GITMO, she absolutely despises civilian journalists. She reagrds them as no better than ambulance chasing lawyers. I can’t argue with that.

    It would be wonderfully refreshing if American journalism would regain the high road of truth, accuracy and fair balance in represnting a story.

    I won’t hold my breath though!

    See, still not the interest in your story, due to irrelevant political bias, that it SHOULD have generated. Did you accomplish your goal?

  • LonnieB

    Well, Jerry< i re-read the article and I saw no dots connecting a burning AMERICAN vehicle (check the license plate) to an article about a BRITISH initiative.

    Nor do I see any connection between McCain/Palin (two AMERICAN politicians) and that same BRITISH-based article.

    If I seem harsh, it’s because I have grown extremely sick of yellow journalist who oh-so-wittily inject their own limioted political agenda or opinion into stories that should be reported honestly, completely and without journalistic bias.

    As a journalist, do you need to be reminded of the public trust placed in your profession? My own daughter is a broadcast journalist in the U.S. Army, and based on her expeiences in Iraq, Kuwait and GITMO, she absolutely despises civilian journalists. She reagrds them as no better than ambulance chasing lawyers. I can’t argue with that.

    It would be wonderfully refreshing if American journalism would regain the high road of truth, accuracy and fair balance in represnting a story.

    I won’t hold my breath though!

    See, still not the interest in your story, due to irrelevant political bias, that it SHOULD have generated. Did you accomplish your goal?

  • re: LonnieB

    I did accomplish it, thanks! And thanks for reading…

  • re: LonnieB

    I did accomplish it, thanks! And thanks for reading…

  • LonnieB

    Originally, I was simply browsing the article, to see if anything it interested me. I saw nothing of real interest until I stumbled upon your biased political snarky remark. I only re-read it more thoroughly because you swore there were connecting dots. I saw none, and quite frankly, I could care less about British fuel initiatives.

    So your goal was to distract from the article? Or was it to irritate your reader with your political bias?

    Spin my response anyway you wish. Thanks for perpetuating the “agenda-driven journalist” stereotype. Good way to instill confidence and trust in American journalism.

  • LonnieB

    Originally, I was simply browsing the article, to see if anything it interested me. I saw nothing of real interest until I stumbled upon your biased political snarky remark. I only re-read it more thoroughly because you swore there were connecting dots. I saw none, and quite frankly, I could care less about British fuel initiatives.

    So your goal was to distract from the article? Or was it to irritate your reader with your political bias?

    Spin my response anyway you wish. Thanks for perpetuating the “agenda-driven journalist” stereotype. Good way to instill confidence and trust in American journalism.

  • John

    LonnieB, this is blogging. Authors inserting their opinion is not only tolerated, it’s expected. Save the journalism standards rant for someone actually claiming to be a journalist.

  • John

    LonnieB, this is blogging. Authors inserting their opinion is not only tolerated, it’s expected. Save the journalism standards rant for someone actually claiming to be a journalist.

  • Nick Chambers

    LonnieB,

    I respect and understand your frustration with the overwhelming bias in the main stream media, but as John points out above, blogging is part journalism and part opinion — we make no attempt to hide this fact here at Gas 2.0. In fact, I’m proud of the wide variety of opinions and backgrounds that our small group of writers brings to the table.

    What the MSM lacks is the ability to tell its audience truthfully that they are doing exactly what bloggers do. Instead they still charade as though what they present is unbiased and unopinionated. That is where my respect for the MSM flies out the window. But we’re not the MSM here at Gas 2.0.

    Although we do interject a good dose of opinion into our posts, we try to provide a balance of fact with that opinion, so that, even if you don’t agree with the opinion, you can still walk away having learned something. And, if you don’t agree with the opinion, I would hope that you feel free, as you obviously do, to leave comments and interact with the writers.

    My sense is that our blog has a good balance of differing opinions from its selection of writers, and I would hope that as you peruse all of our content you’d get that sense too.

    Nick Chambers

    Editor Gas 2.0

  • ChuckL

    You know Jeff, your unnecessary and downright nasty political comment reduces the believability of your post. It looks like you just used something of real interest to get people to read your sick joke.

    You might find this information from UNH interesting. It looks like we, The USA could become the OPEC of biodiesel supply. But this might be way too big for a good joke lead-in.

    Bransby, Algae eats CO2 as it grows and it gives off O2.

  • ChuckL

    You know Jeff, your unnecessary and downright nasty political comment reduces the believability of your post. It looks like you just used something of real interest to get people to read your sick joke.

    You might find this information from UNH interesting. It looks like we, The USA could become the OPEC of biodiesel supply. But this might be way too big for a good joke lead-in.

    Bransby, Algae eats CO2 as it grows and it gives off O2.

  • What does the burning American vehicle have to do with the story?

    What does the political bit have to do with anything in the article? It will be even less relevant after the election.

    Honest , accuratem, unbiased reporting. Often demanded from the big networks. (ie Fox) But then can’t seem to follow it yourself?

    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. by Mahatma Gandhi

    KieranMullen

  • What does the burning American vehicle have to do with the story?

    What does the political bit have to do with anything in the article? It will be even less relevant after the election.

    Honest , accuratem, unbiased reporting. Often demanded from the big networks. (ie Fox) But then can’t seem to follow it yourself?

    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. by Mahatma Gandhi

    KieranMullen

  • R.J.

    As someone who should be mid-life right about now, shouldn’t you be aware of political promises?

    No matter who wins, we are entitled to contact our representatives to DEMAND clean energy.

    I have notice that local government and private industry has been in the forefront of actually making alternate energy avialable to the masses.

    Instead of being bias, why not focus on what is revelant.

    Write another article on the evils of the Republician party (so I can skip over it). I want to read about the issue, not a political spin.

    Didn’t Bush sign the bailout bill which has all the tax credits in it for PHEV’s and Solar Installation and paying people to ride their bikes to work. (All articles can be found on Treehugger)

    Didn’t Bush fund hydrogen research in 2003?

    Didn’t Bush sign into law the Largest Marine Santuary?

    He also did some stupid things also to the enviroment, but the article is supposed to be based on something else.

    Not that I am a Bush fan, but to illistrate a point, you should leave your political bias out of an article.

    Give credit where it is due and comment on the items that need to be addressed and corrected.

  • R.J.

    As someone who should be mid-life right about now, shouldn’t you be aware of political promises?

    No matter who wins, we are entitled to contact our representatives to DEMAND clean energy.

    I have notice that local government and private industry has been in the forefront of actually making alternate energy avialable to the masses.

    Instead of being bias, why not focus on what is revelant.

    Write another article on the evils of the Republician party (so I can skip over it). I want to read about the issue, not a political spin.

    Didn’t Bush sign the bailout bill which has all the tax credits in it for PHEV’s and Solar Installation and paying people to ride their bikes to work. (All articles can be found on Treehugger)

    Didn’t Bush fund hydrogen research in 2003?

    Didn’t Bush sign into law the Largest Marine Santuary?

    He also did some stupid things also to the enviroment, but the article is supposed to be based on something else.

    Not that I am a Bush fan, but to illistrate a point, you should leave your political bias out of an article.

    Give credit where it is due and comment on the items that need to be addressed and corrected.

  • Jif fMAson

    Wow, I would say the truck in that image is fully engulfed!

    Jiff

    http://www.online-privacy.cz.tc

  • Jif fMAson

    Wow, I would say the truck in that image is fully engulfed!

    Jiff

    http://www.online-privacy.cz.tc

  • LonnieB

    Good morning all,

    Now that I’ve had a good night’s rest, I’ll calm down. Apologies if my ire got a little abrasive. I can’t let my frustrations get the better of me.

    I came to this site to learn a few things about biofuels and to share what kowledge I may posses with others. Not read irrelevent political wisecracks. I have blooged other sites until I could no longer stomach the political B/S. I guess the MSM and their pet politicians have created a division so deep in this country that there’s just no escaping it.

    That’s sad. America’s greatness used to lie in her independence and innovation. Have you noticed that it is “we the people” blogging here? Has anyone ever seen a politician, local or otherwise, come on a blogsite like this asking the people’s opinions or input? Also note that the problems we address here were largely created by our government and the solutions we offer often reflect a need to get around or change some lame government decission or rule.

    Oh well, I guess it is what it is. I lament the country my father, myself, my daughter, in fact my family dating back to the Civil War fought to forge and defend. It is being stolen by those who will not be content with anything less than the dismantling of the American Dream into a socialist nightmare.

  • LonnieB

    Good morning all,

    Now that I’ve had a good night’s rest, I’ll calm down. Apologies if my ire got a little abrasive. I can’t let my frustrations get the better of me.

    I came to this site to learn a few things about biofuels and to share what kowledge I may posses with others. Not read irrelevent political wisecracks. I have blooged other sites until I could no longer stomach the political B/S. I guess the MSM and their pet politicians have created a division so deep in this country that there’s just no escaping it.

    That’s sad. America’s greatness used to lie in her independence and innovation. Have you noticed that it is “we the people” blogging here? Has anyone ever seen a politician, local or otherwise, come on a blogsite like this asking the people’s opinions or input? Also note that the problems we address here were largely created by our government and the solutions we offer often reflect a need to get around or change some lame government decission or rule.

    Oh well, I guess it is what it is. I lament the country my father, myself, my daughter, in fact my family dating back to the Civil War fought to forge and defend. It is being stolen by those who will not be content with anything less than the dismantling of the American Dream into a socialist nightmare.

  • Bill

    You are really thick aren’t you , the burning car relates to the comment at the end. You don’t have to burn your car just yet. Get it?

  • Bill

    You are really thick aren’t you , the burning car relates to the comment at the end. You don’t have to burn your car just yet. Get it?

  • DavidS

    Only a fool would come here expecting journalism.

    Judging by election coverage this year journalism is dead.

  • DavidS

    Only a fool would come here expecting journalism.

    Judging by election coverage this year journalism is dead.

  • Jlk

    I am shocked that what we are commenting on here is the way the article was written, the relevancy of the photo, the strong political bias that represented not quite two sentences. Where are your environmental passions? Have we utterly and completely stopped cheering for innovation, possibility and hope on the environmental front? Have we really become so bitter and callous as to point out the problems with journalism in an article that truly speaks to a viable alternative? Who cares if it’s a British initiative?! It may eventually play a significant role in freeing most of the world from our dependence on oil and rape of the earth’s limited fossil fuel resources. Can’t we get excited about that?! One intelligent comment, from someone who was worried they would seem “thick” for asking… pitiful.

  • Jlk

    I am shocked that what we are commenting on here is the way the article was written, the relevancy of the photo, the strong political bias that represented not quite two sentences. Where are your environmental passions? Have we utterly and completely stopped cheering for innovation, possibility and hope on the environmental front? Have we really become so bitter and callous as to point out the problems with journalism in an article that truly speaks to a viable alternative? Who cares if it’s a British initiative?! It may eventually play a significant role in freeing most of the world from our dependence on oil and rape of the earth’s limited fossil fuel resources. Can’t we get excited about that?! One intelligent comment, from someone who was worried they would seem “thick” for asking… pitiful.

  • LonnieB

    Again, my apologies for allowing myself to over-react to an assine and irrelevent political jab. I should ignore small-minded partisanship, but in this case it was a turd in a punch bowl. Totally unnecessary and distracting from the meat of the article.

    Yes, this is a positive development for the state of the worlds fuel resources, regardless of where it comes from.

    Europe has a much different fuel/energy problem than we do, and their resources are somewhat limited. Due to the nature of the governmental systems in the E.U., their respective governments will necessarily be more involve than ours needs to be. At least I hope so.

    So their solutions may not necessarily translate for us. But this does seem to be one that just might, if the private sector here takes it on.

    Our own government lost money running The Mustang Ranch, outside Las Vegas, when they took it over due to taxes. In other words, our elected idiots can’t even make money selling booze and whores!

  • LonnieB

    Again, my apologies for allowing myself to over-react to an assine and irrelevent political jab. I should ignore small-minded partisanship, but in this case it was a turd in a punch bowl. Totally unnecessary and distracting from the meat of the article.

    Yes, this is a positive development for the state of the worlds fuel resources, regardless of where it comes from.

    Europe has a much different fuel/energy problem than we do, and their resources are somewhat limited. Due to the nature of the governmental systems in the E.U., their respective governments will necessarily be more involve than ours needs to be. At least I hope so.

    So their solutions may not necessarily translate for us. But this does seem to be one that just might, if the private sector here takes it on.

    Our own government lost money running The Mustang Ranch, outside Las Vegas, when they took it over due to taxes. In other words, our elected idiots can’t even make money selling booze and whores!

  • Re: Jlk

    Hey, thank you for pointing out the other 500 words in the article. 🙂

  • Re: Jlk

    Hey, thank you for pointing out the other 500 words in the article. 🙂

  • LonnieB

    And now for something completely different…(you Monty Python fans will get that)

    Since this thread is under the “biofuel business” tab, how ’bout this:

    On a trip to the Dominican Republic, last year, it occurred to me that the island has huge potential to be a source of renewable ethanol feedstock, if not ethanol itself. I toured a sugar cane plantation and saw thousands of acres of sugar cane. I also saw thousands of unplanted acreage.

    I wonder if a group of insightful investors and businessmen could possibly negotiate something with their government to, at first, export raw feedstock to our ethanol plants, and then later develop their own plants on the island?

    Surely I’m not the first to think of this, but I sure wish I had the resources and contacts to make it happen.

    Of course, I’d most likely have to get past our own governmental roadblocks and tariffs, but the result could be that the D.R. gains more wealth and creates more jobs, which may in turn help alieviate their neighbor, Haiti’s chronic unemployment and abject poverty, resulting in less drain on the U.N.’s Humanitarian Aid budget (of which the U.S. is the largest contributor), allowing them to play feelgood “Bluehat” cop in more third world nations.

    Another net result would be to pacify the “no food for fuel” crowd, by not using their precious corn. Then they could feel good about feeding the starving Ethernopians. (A Southpark reference)

    BTW – Dominican cigars are much better than the leftover Cuban stock, as well as being legal and cheaper. But that’s another story.

  • LonnieB

    And now for something completely different…(you Monty Python fans will get that)

    Since this thread is under the “biofuel business” tab, how ’bout this:

    On a trip to the Dominican Republic, last year, it occurred to me that the island has huge potential to be a source of renewable ethanol feedstock, if not ethanol itself. I toured a sugar cane plantation and saw thousands of acres of sugar cane. I also saw thousands of unplanted acreage.

    I wonder if a group of insightful investors and businessmen could possibly negotiate something with their government to, at first, export raw feedstock to our ethanol plants, and then later develop their own plants on the island?

    Surely I’m not the first to think of this, but I sure wish I had the resources and contacts to make it happen.

    Of course, I’d most likely have to get past our own governmental roadblocks and tariffs, but the result could be that the D.R. gains more wealth and creates more jobs, which may in turn help alieviate their neighbor, Haiti’s chronic unemployment and abject poverty, resulting in less drain on the U.N.’s Humanitarian Aid budget (of which the U.S. is the largest contributor), allowing them to play feelgood “Bluehat” cop in more third world nations.

    Another net result would be to pacify the “no food for fuel” crowd, by not using their precious corn. Then they could feel good about feeding the starving Ethernopians. (A Southpark reference)

    BTW – Dominican cigars are much better than the leftover Cuban stock, as well as being legal and cheaper. But that’s another story.

  • Sebastian

    I liked the article til the end. Which ruined any point he might have made, and just left me disappointed. I would like to thank you on behalf of our country for showing the world that your political interests are the basis of your articles, not facts or information.

  • Sebastian

    I liked the article til the end. Which ruined any point he might have made, and just left me disappointed. I would like to thank you on behalf of our country for showing the world that your political interests are the basis of your articles, not facts or information.

  • Uncle B

    The free world will be happy to know that an American tinkerer found a way to inject H2 into turboed bio-diesels and get amazing power increases, and lower pollution numbers. Right now, he is producing SUV conversions, and surely the Chinese or German companies will take note and use this technology to their sales advantage! Just think, a use for H2 from the sun AND a use for Bio-diesel fuels! Not so for “The Big Three” they are too busy suckling at Uncle Sams tit to look up and take notice! When the devaluation of the dollar due to the Bush money printing spree is combined with the OPEC blackmail for more money and the spectre of less oil in the wells, and cash, in Euros, on the barrel head is demanded for oil, we may be more inclined to change our attitudes. For the time being, cheap gas in the stated is saying,”Get out your SUV’s, it was only a scare” Watch out America, the (GRD) great republican depression is about to eat you on the half-shell, no salt, no pepper, just a gulp!

  • Uncle B

    The free world will be happy to know that an American tinkerer found a way to inject H2 into turboed bio-diesels and get amazing power increases, and lower pollution numbers. Right now, he is producing SUV conversions, and surely the Chinese or German companies will take note and use this technology to their sales advantage! Just think, a use for H2 from the sun AND a use for Bio-diesel fuels! Not so for “The Big Three” they are too busy suckling at Uncle Sams tit to look up and take notice! When the devaluation of the dollar due to the Bush money printing spree is combined with the OPEC blackmail for more money and the spectre of less oil in the wells, and cash, in Euros, on the barrel head is demanded for oil, we may be more inclined to change our attitudes. For the time being, cheap gas in the stated is saying,”Get out your SUV’s, it was only a scare” Watch out America, the (GRD) great republican depression is about to eat you on the half-shell, no salt, no pepper, just a gulp!

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