From: Paula Leighton , SciDevNet, More from this Affiliate
Published February 23, 2010 04:31 PM

Chile committed to biofuels based on algae

With a public-private investment of $ 31.6 million, Chile will bet this year on research and development of technologies that can produce biofuels from algae.

The funds will support three consortia - Desert Bionergy, Biofuels AlgaFuels and BAL-Biofuels -integrated by private companies and universities. These were awarded in a competition launched last January by the National Energy Commission and the state development corporation of productive CORFO.


This seeks to "promote technologies that are not yet fully mature or whose entry barriers are too high, but we trust will have an auspicious future," said Energy Minister Marcelo Tokman to announce the winning consortium.

Among the factors considered for biofuel production support of micro and macroalgae, there is an extensive Chilean coast, more than 3 thousand kilometers, and high solar radiation, which favors the process of photosynthesis.

Another advantage is that unlike commodities such as sugar cane, palm and other oil, "the cultivation of algae does not require the use of agricultural land, irrigation water or fertilizer," said Lance Ayrault, general manager of BAL Biofuels, a consortium that will cultivate the seaweed macroalgae (Macrocystis pyrifera) and hopes to produce up to 50 million gallons of ethanol a year, equivalent to five percent of total gasoline currently used in Chile.

Feedstock advantages of second generation sources (from non-food sources), Ayrault adds that "the ocean algae cleaned of excess nutrients, shelter marine life and crops can provide income to fishermen, in addition to diversifying the industry Chilean aquaculture, which now focuses on salmon and mussels.

The consortium will work to achieve the most productive strains of algae for cultivation in Chile, and the optimization of culture conditions to maximize oil production. In addition, it will conduct research and development of the biofuel production process.

In an estimated three to four years, Chile will count algae as a renewable source of biofuels.

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