Details here. We’ll see how they go with volumes and stability of production. If there is ANY liquid fuel production scheme that might potentially meet oil’s sheer volumes, it’s algae — which is interesting because that’s what the geologists think formed oil in the first place.
However, there are significant cost problems. Just talking about the ‘ability’ to grow algae from sewerage doesn’t tell us if it’s going to happen. As the Wiki says:
Dry algae factor is the percentage of algae cells in relation with the media where is cultured. I.e., if the dry algae factor is 50%, one would need 2 kg of wet algae (algae in the media) to get 1 kg of algae cells.
Lipid factor is the percentage of vegoil in relation with the algae cells needed to get it I.e., if the algae lipid factor is 40%, one need 2.5 kg of algae cells to get 1 kg of oil.
So with today’s technology let’s be kind and assume the first quote above refers to $5-10 kg per kg of algae cells (and not wet algae). That’s 2.5 times $5-10 dollars is at a minimum $10 a litre oil. Hmmmm, yeah, real cheap. (not)
Yet on the positive side Valcent are talking up algae grown not in a pond, but in sealed plastic sheets of plastic piping that cycle the algae through the plumbing. They call it a High Density Vertical Bioreactor.
More photos here or watch the video below. This could be an enormous technical breakthrough. It would still take an enormous amount of money and time to BUILD 40 thousand km’s of greenhouses, and I’m not sure how cheaply they are claiming to be able to grow this fuel, AND it needs nutrients (read sewerage — may as well use our wastewater for something good) which will have to be pumped to the plant. But wow! This is a breakthrough.
The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers), which is a few thousand square miles larger than Maryland, or 1.3 Belgiums. This is less than 1/7th the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000.
40 thousand square kilometers of greenhouses growing algae? Hmmm, that’s not going to arrive overnight.