By now, most people paying attention to energy issues have heard about algae biofuels. These fuels have the potential to not only allow the United States to produce significant percentages of fuel domestically, but do so without having to change the transportation infrastructure currently in place.
It is for these reasons that the United States’ government has taken interest in algal fuels and has made several large investments for their continued research and development, several of which originating from the U.S. Department of Energy.
In addition to the numerous research grants over the past couple years, the DOE also hosted a workshop in December 2008 titled the “Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap Workshop.” This workshop hosted over 200 researchers, government representatives, and industry leaders in the algae fuel sector to discuss the obstacles that algae will need to overcome in order to become a viable commercial fuel.
Following this workshop, the DOE helped compile all the ideas from the participants into a report they titled the “National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap.” The rough draft was released last summer with revisions and suggestions taking place since then.
After taking almost a year to edit the draft, the DOE released the finalized version of the roadmap in the last week of June 2010. This 125 plus page document outlines what will need to be done in order for algae to become a commercially available fuel.
The goal of the final version of this “roadmap” is “to lay down the first comprehensive state of technology for fuels and co-products from algae feedstock and to document the feasibility and techno-economic challenges associated with commercial scaling up processes” (Page 5 in the “Overview” Chapter).
This document does an extremely good job at succinctly acknowledging the many technological “roadblocks” that the algae industry will need to get around while suggestion the industry focus on specific areas of research that will ultimately lead to successful commercialization of algal products. From basic algal cell biology to commercialized algal product economics, this roadmap ensures that no aspect of the algae industry remains unaddressed.
The New York Times had an article announcing the release of the final version of the technology roadmap in which Al Darzins of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory summarized the message of the report:
"One thing that comes across loud and clear [in the report] ... is that the path to algal biofuels commercialization will not be totally dependent on any one unit operation or technology but rather on the industry's ability to string together or 'integrate' robust and scalable technology solutions into an entire process (i.e., soup to nuts) that makes sense from a sustainability, policy and cost perspective," he said.
The great news is that the entire document has been made available to the public for FREE!
I would highly recommend anyone interested in algae fuels to check this document out since it does a great job compiling all the major obstacles and listing them in one place:
Jonathan Williams is a conservative blogger at www.BlatantReality.com and www.SCStatehouseBlog.com. He is also the founder and current president of the nonprofit organization Need by Need, Inc. He can be reached at Jon@BlatantReality.com.
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