Production needs to be faster, lipids and algae cells need to be fatter, the cost of production needs to be cheaper, the extraction process needs to be easier and better, and lastly but very important is that valuable co-products need to be produced.
According to a study done on algae biofuels/biomass market: Algae 2020 (460 pages, June 2009), these five key stratgies emerged as approaches to help producers to reduce costs and accelerate the commercialization of algae biodiesel.
1: Faster. As a first strategy for most algae biofuels producers is to identify algae species that have a high oil content, that will also grow quickly to produce biodiesel, biocrude and drop-in fuels. Growth of algae is tied to CO2 sequestration so the more CO2 can be sequestered from nearby emitters the faster the algae will grow.
2: Fatter. Algae are especially interested in utilizing algal species with a high triglyceride (TAG) oil content for biodiesel and biocrude production. Obviously the more oil content the more diesel can be produced.
3: Cheaper. Based on the examination of several algae business and economic models, the study finds the estimated costs to produce algae oils and algae biodiesel today range from $9 to $25 per gallon in ponds, and from $15 to $40 in photobioreactors (PBRs).
4: Easier/Better. The study has identified algae producers are now employing easier and better methods of producing algae for biodiesel, biocrude and drop-in fuels.
5: Co-Product Fraction Marketing Strategies. Even with algae species with up to 50% oil content, the additional 50% biomass remains. This biomass fraction contains valuable proteins for livestock, poultry and fish feed additives valued from $800 up to $2500 per ton. As fish-feed an interesting concept would be to feed the biomass to fish (tilapia for example) and then produce fish fillets, fish meal, and fish-oil from which another bio-diesel can be produced
Tony Picclo – Aquatic Biofuels Specialist, Rome – Italy