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PetroSun Opens World First Algae-to-Fuel Plant

As you may have heard, algal fuel also known as oilgae, is rapidly becoming a viable alternative to dwindling fossil fuel reserves. There’s more to this development than producing biodiesel though, at 30 times higher efficiency than other similar efforts, such as, production of soybeans for biofuel takes an entire field of crops to equal a two-car garage’s worth of algae bred for equal oil production.

The efficiency of the algae grown could potentially allow for the replacement of fossil fuels of varying types used with a renewable source rather than the current supplies which take millions of years to naturally develop. Per acre, oilgae can yield between 5000-20000 gallons; significantly more than other popular producers of biofuel the soybean plant and Chinese tallow, which produce up to 699 gallons. This massive jump in efficiency has previously been a barrier in producing biofuels due to the massive demand that would be required to fill the worlds 500 million cars a quarter of which are here in the United States. Its not only algae’s high efficiency that’s so appealing though, algae doesn’t require specific climates, clean water, or consumable food as they use photosynthesis and sunlight to survive. This is important because it is already fathomable to convert en masse production and refinement of conventional oil reserves to focus on algae growth and refinement.

Due to the dedicated research into this fast growing field, there have already been a number of technological advancements to expedite the process. Glen Kertz, CEO of Valcent Products, uses a better than natural patented system he’s developed for the cultivation of the algae. Vertigro, his invention, seeks to avert the largest natural problem with mass growth of algae, there is only so much surf area of ponds to grow on. By having stacks of mini algae farms, water-filled flexible plastic containers, the usable surface area is significantly increased. Valcent and their Canadian alternative fuel source partners have invested $5 million dollars into the research, which seems to be going very well as they claim their invention allows for production of to 100,000 gallons per acre.

Earlier this year, PetroSun made news with the opening of the first large scale production facility, their Rio Hondo, Texas plant utilizes 1100 acres of saltwater ponds which will produce a minimum of 4.4 million gallons of algal oil by April 1st, 2009 marking the companies first birthday. In this first year it is also expected that 110 million pounds of biomass would be grown however unlike other types of oil the waste material is biodegradable. Which leads to one of many positive benefits over current production techniques like caustic habitat destroying crude oil spills in fragile ecosystems would be a thing of the past.

Interestingly PetroSun have reserved 20 of the acres on their new facilities grounds for the research and development of an algal oil alternative to JP38, jet fuel. Once skeptical Boeing have apparently began to aid in the research of alternative jet fuels because the surging prices threaten all the major airliners. Continental Airlines is already planning a test flight for the new biofuel in the next year. Also, PetroSun have been working with military laboratories to develop oil usable for their massive fleet of vehicles.

With this in mind, if we were to make a nationwide effort to replace all current petroleum used in the United States today, it would require a 15000 square mile area; a few thousand miles larger than the state of Maryland yet only 1/7th of the land used to produce corn. However, this is not such a troubling task as it may seem, finding that huge amount of space of rich farmland would be almost impossible yet there are many uninhabited land areas around the U.S. that could be future sites of massive cultivation facilities.

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