Algae naturally contains oil which can be refined to fuel. As it has plenty of advantages in growing, maintaining and harvesting, it is a very promising source of future fuel supply. Since natural algae strains are not capable of competing with the current oil prices, synthetic biologists hope to solve those issues in the future.
Microalgae are unicellular photosynthetic organisms, which are particularly attractive as they will not displace agricultural crops, can be grown year-round, and can be harvested continually. Algae are also advantageous as a feedstock because they have a high growth rate, ability to thrive in saline water, capability of absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2), and capability to use nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorous) from waste products (such as sewage). Algae typically have a high oil content of 20–50 per cent (dry weight), some strains having an oil content as high as 80 per cent dry weight. Algae are capable of doubling their biomass in a 24-hour period. Algae can produce 8–24 times the triglycerides per area as other biomass resources, enabling the production of 58 700–136 900 litre per ha of oil per year. It is estimated that between 2 and 6 per cent of the total US cropping area would be sufficient to produce enough algal oil for biodiesel production to entirely satisfy its transportation fuel needs.
How an algae fuel farm might look like
© 2012 AlgueTec
The cost of production of algal oil and algal biodiesel are approximately US$10.60/gal and approximately 13.25/gal, respectively.8 Over the last 5 years, the cost of production for petrodiesel fluctuated between $2.91/gal and $1.65/gal.13 In order for algal biodiesel to be an economically viable option, there must be major technological advancements and/or government subsidies for research, development and/or production.
Other sources say, the current price per litre is currently around 7,70 €.
Apparently, there are two approaches to do this: algae that is then transformed into fuel and fuel that gets synthesised by algae directly.