New hope for pond scum
Pond scum could be the key to creating the fuel of the future according to scientists.
Pond scum could be the key to creating the fuel of the future according to scientists. They hope that a "green oil" or sustainable transport fuel made from algae could avoid the problems of first generation biofuels.
One ongoing issue has been how to make algae fuel production possible at the industrial scale needed for commercial production.
But a multimillion-pound initiative launched by the Carbon Trust aims to commercialise the use of algae biofuel as an alternative to fossil-based oil by 2020. The trust said that an algae-based biofuel could replace a "significant proportion" of the fossil fuel used on our roads and in the skies, saving hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon every year globally and creating a billion-pound industry.
By 2030, according to its forecasts, algae-based biofuels could replace fossil-derived fuels usage to the equivalent to 12 per cent of the world's annual jet fuel consumption - saving more than 160 million tonnes of carbon dioxide yearly.
The trust's challenge to the UK's algae specialists is to produce such an algae-based biofuel cost-effectively, and at scale. It said algae could potentially deliver six to 10 times more energy per hectare than conventional cropland biofuels and - unlike traditional biofuels - could be grown on non-arable land using seawater or wastewater.
The first phase of the Algae Biofuels Challenge will provide grant funding for research, while the second phase will see the construction of an open pond test and demonstration plant.
The initiative could see the trust commit £3 million to £6 million of funding in the initial stages, while the Department for Transport will also contribute.
Dr Mark Williamson, innovations director at the Carbon Trust, said: "We must find a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to oil for our cars and planes if we are to deliver the deep cuts in carbon emissions necessary to tackle climate change.
"Algae could provide a significant part of the answer and represents a multibillion-pound opportunity."