Several companies believe algae may be one of the best "green" alternatives for our current transportation fuel:
First off, algae grows rapidly and grows constantly, which means that algae ponds can produce more oil per hectare in a year than traditional plant crops, said GreenFuel CFO Guillermo Espiga.
A hectare pond filled with algae can produce 15,000 to 80,000 liters of vegetable oil a year. Only about 6,000 liters of palm oil can be squeezed out of a hectare a year. Corn is only good for 120 hectares of oil a year, Espiga said.
Algae can also be converted into a variety of materials, insulating producers from changes in commodity prices to some degree. It can be turned into alcohol for ethanol, biomass that can be burned in a furnace, or animal feed (which can also be sold under the Soylent Green brand name in grocery stores). A single hectare can generate 8,000 gallons of oil, 2,400 gallons of ethanol a year and 2.6 tons of glycerin, a material bought by the cosmetics industry, he said.
But there's more. GreenFuel plans to produce algae in ponds next to coal-fired power plants. The carbon dioxide from the plants is captured and provides the food for growing the algae. At a 100 megawatt coal-burning power plant, 100 acres of algae ponds, optimized with species that grow well in that particular environment, will consume 90 percent of the CO2 from the plant.