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Algae-based biofuels: applications and co-products

The report shows that, while the technology for large scale algal biofuel production is not yet commercially viable, algal production systems may eventually contribute to rural development, not only through their multiple environmental benefits but also through their contribution of diversification to integrated systems by efficiently co-producing energy with valuable nutrients, animal feed, fertilizers, biofuels and other products that can be customized on the basis of the local needs. The report is presented by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Aquatic Biofuels Working Group.

Although the need for dense energy carriers for the aviation industry and other uses is assured in the foreseeable future, there is currently lack of viable renewable alternatives to biofuels for that component of the transport sector. Algal biofuels have many advantageous characteristics that would lower impacts on environmental degradation in comparison to biofuel feedstock and in some cases improve the well-being of developing and developed communities.

Within the international debate surrounding algal biofuels, there are both endorsement and scepticism coming from scientists with different views on the ability of this source of biofuels to meet a significant portion of fuel demand. The private sector has invested in the technology to grow algae and convert it to liquid biofuels over the last few years. Technical scientists and business people tend to focus on their specific perspective rather than on a global perspective that clearly analyses the benefits (or drawbacks) of a technology for sustainable development. Sustainability experts need to liaise with different stakeholders to assess the practical applicability of algal biofuels and their suitability for developing regions in order to provide governments and policy-makers with the appropriate information to formulate optimal solutions.

Read the report here: Algae-based biofuels: applications and co-products