Greentech Lead U.S: Sustainability concerns are not a definitive
barrier to sustainable development of algal biofuels because mitigation
strategies for each of those concerns have been proposed and are being
developed, according to a new National Research Council (NRC) report.
As per the NRC report, there are five areas of
“major” sustainability concern. The good news is that these are
already being addressed by algal fuel producers and researchers, the report
said. The five sustainability concerns are:
Water: Use of saline and non-potable or recycled water is
essential to commercial algae production. According to a Pacific Northwest
National Laboratories (PNNL) report, algal fuels grown in saline water from
existing aquifers and recycling nutrients would be able to provide up to twice
the goal for advanced biofuels set under the Energy Independence and Security
Act goal (roughly 40 billion gallons or 20 percent of annual transportation
Nutrients: Nutrient recycling and efficient use of
resources are essential to achieving the techno-economics of energy production
and producing a low carbon fuel. ABO members are piloting this technology today
and the DOE and several universities have ongoing research in this area. As
PNNL points out, use of nutrients is dramatically decreased when recycling is
used. Nitrogen fertilizer consumption is reduced 98 percent and phosphorus
fertilizer is reduced by more than 40 percent.
Land Use: PNNL recently reported there are more than
89,000 suitable sites in the United States for open pond cultivation.
Energy ROI: Industry leaders are already achieving the
NRC report’s proposed benchmark for Energy Return on Investment (EROI) of 3x (3
units of energy produced per unit of energy input) in current algae biofuels
production processes by recycling nutrients, producing biomethane from residual
organics, and engineering designs that minimize energy use.
GHG emissions lifecycle: By qualifying algae-based diesel
as an Advanced Biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard, the US Environmental
Protection Agency’s life cycle analysis found that algae-based diesel reduces
greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent, thus qualifying it as an
Advanced Biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
With more than 150 companies and more than 60 labs and
research facilities continuing to innovate the industry, and with
pre-commercial facilities coming online in 2013, there’s no doubt that algal
fuels will only become more economically and environmentally sustainable, and
researchers will have more current and accurate data sets from which to make
Algae Biomass Organization has applauded the findings
saying that additional research, development and innovation will continue to
improve the sustainability of products derived from algae.