Research highlights eco-problems of high energy algae

Algae may be a good future source of energy but the environmental issues it causes could mean it'll never be used on a large scale, according to new research.

Researchers, from the New University of Virginia in the US, found that algae-based fuels could produce ‘high’ energy outputs with minimal land use, but their production could also come with ‘significant environmental burdens’.

The work, published yesterday (August 10), found algae based fuels are ‘no silver bullet’ in the search for low carbon transport.

The report, Environmental Impacts of Algae-Derived Biodiesel and Bioelectricity for Transportation, has been published online on the website of Environmental Science and Technology

From an environmental impact standpoint algae-based fuel has mixed performance, compared to other biomass sources.

This is mainly because algae-based biodiesel production uses more energy, in the form of petroleum-powered processes, than other biofuels.

And, algae-based biodiesel and bioelectricity production processes also require substantial amounts of water and emit more greenhouse gases.

The researchers relied on what is known as a ‘well-to-wheel’ life-cycle assessment of algae-based biofuel and bioelectricity production for transportation fuels.

Luke Walsh

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