Bioenergy

Alabama Grant Furthers Cultivating Algae for Biofuel

Gov. Bob Riley has awarded a $10,000 grant to Auburn University to conduct a study to determine the economic and technical feasibility of cultivating pond algae commercially as a source for biofuel.

“Alternative fuels help us protect our environment, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and give an economic boost to our farmers,” Riley said. “I am pleased to provide funds for this study which could be the first step in making Alabama’s farmers leaders in producing and selling a new source for biodiesel.” Pond algae could be a viable alternative because it contains nearly identical vegetable oil (as corn and soy) and it thrives in shallow ponds on carbon dioxide, wastewater and solid agricultural and industrial waste. Also, algae can produce 4,000 gallons of vegetable oil per acre in properly designed ponds each year, compared to 43 gallons per acre for soy, researchers said. The study will examine the growth rates of algae in Alabama and the technology currently available to harvest the algae and extract the oil needed for biodiesel. Researchers will visit facilities that use and harvest algae and interview manufacturers to determine the latest equipment available for algae farming. If the results of the study are favorable to producing algae commercially, the University will then start a two-acre pilot pond and develop one or more 10-100-acre demonstration ponds. Riley awarded the grant, which will be administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), from oil overcharge funds that were paid to Alabama and other states as restitution for oil company violations of federal oil pricing controls in the 1980s.