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Algae biofuels : An Introduction

No single feedstock is likely to solve the supply issues facing the biodiesel industry. As it diversifies beyond traditional oilseed crops—soybeans and rapeseed—exotic solutions such as nonfood crops and algae could play a vital role in biodiesel’s future. Algae have received global attention as a renewable resource of biodiesel and may play an important role as a component contributing to the economic growth of the country. A variety of blue-green and green algae are found in the wetlands of various regions of India, however, they have hitherto remained untapped. There is ample scope for commercial culture of freshwater microalgae to exploit them as a biodiesel feedstock and as a resource for other economically important chemicals such as antioxidants and omega-three fatty acids. Exploitation of algal diversity in all over the world and its sustainable use as a feedstock for biodiesel through biotechnological interventions is the need of the hour to ensure future energy security.

Microalgae are currently cultivated commercially for human nutritional products around the world in several dozen small- to medium-scale production systems, producing a few tens to a several hundreds of tons of biomass annually. Algae are simple organisms that range from very small, single-celled microalgae to microalgae that group into very large organisms such as kelp. There are more than 300,000 species of algae in global algae culture collections. The vast majority of algae are photosynthetic, deriving energy from the sun to produce energy and biomass. Algae are grown commercially around the world, primarily for nutritional, feed, and specialty product use.. Total world production of dry algal biomass for these algae is estimated at about 10,000 tons per year. About half of this produced takes place in mainland China, with most of the rest in Japan, Taiwan, U.S.A., Australia and India, and a few small producers in some other countries.

The primary requirements for growing algae are sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Algae also require nutrients and environmental conditions appropriate to the specific algal species. Algae productivity is dependent on carbon intake, as carbon constitutes over 50% by weight of Algae Biomass. Algae can consume high concentrations of CO2 (between 5-30%) as it is emitted from power, cement and chemical plants before it is absorbed into the atmosphere. Atmospheric CO2, at less than 0.04%, need to be supplemented with additional CO2 to deliver high productivities.

Microalgae are selected based on a number of factors, most notably high innate growth rates, favorable overall composition (lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins), and ability to grow in specific climatic conditions.

There are a number of variables including innate growth rate per species and seasonal availability of sunlight.

Under optimum growth conditions algae can produce up to 20,000 gallons of oil/acre/year. Micro-algae are the fastest growing photosynthesizing organisms. They can complete an entire growing cycle every few days. Algae contain Lipids and fatty acids as membrane components, storage products, metabolites and sources of energy. . Some of the micro-algae may contain up to 60% fat. Once the lipid is extracted, the remaining becomes a good animal feed.

Benefits of Algal
Impressive Productivity: Microalgae, as distinct from seaweed or macro algae, can potentially produce 100 times more oil per acre than soybeans—or any other terrestrial oil-producing crop.
Non-Competitive with Agriculture: Algae can be cultivated in large open ponds or in closed photo bio reactors located on non-arable land in a variety of climates (including deserts).
Flexible on Water Quality: Many species of algae thrive in seawater, water from saline aquifers, or even wastewater from treatment plants
Mitigation of CO2: During photosynthesis, algae use solar energy to fix carbon dioxide (CO2) into biomass, so the water used to cultivate algae must be enriched with CO2. This requirement offers an opportunity to make productive use of the CO2 from power plants, bio fuel facilities, and other sources.
Broad Product Portfolio: The lipids produced by algae can be used to produce a range of bio-fuels, and the remaining biomass residue has a variety of useful applications:—combust to generate heat—use in anaerobic digesters to produce methane—use as a fermentation feedstock in the production of ethanol— use in value-added byproducts, such as animal feed

The possibilities for algae continue to evolve. We focus on fast-growing algae and using waste/salty water/nondrinking-nonagricultural water to grow it. As the algae are growing, it cleans the water and the air. We are enhancing the environment, while producing energy. One advantage is that water used to grow fast-growing algae contains high nutrients, so nutrients can be recycled and money and water can be saved. We continue to search for the least cost, most efficient oil extraction methods which are the key to a successful green fuel project involving algae. There are several uses for algae that can be profitable in the short-term.

CJP is playing a vital role to utilize the algal resource effectively for production of biodiesel and bringing it to a commercial scale, and undertaking research to screen the biodiesel potential of existing strains of native species and, assessment of field cultivation with a view to establishing open pond cultivation/ Photo bio reactor augmenting biodiesel production.

For further details kindly mail to or

Assistant Director, CJP
B-132, Sainik Basti, Churu-331001
Tele: +91-9413334600

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