Algae: An Oil Crop of Future
With the phenomenal increase in the world population and industrial growth in the past few decades, some of the major problems confronting mankind are those of quantity and quality of food, feed, drinking water, disposal of sewage and industrial wastes and proper conservation of water and soil. Suitably controlled algal growth can provide help in tackling these problems. Algae have found applications in many areas including agriculture, aquaculture, environmental protection and management and as functional foods and pharmaceuticals.
Some species of Algae can be a new Source of Energy for Cement Manufacturers, Power Plants and BioEthanol Distilleries. Most of BioEthanol distilleries in India use Cane Sugar Molasses as raw Material. In the manufacture of BioEthanol, large amount of CO2 is released, which is in highly concentrated form. CO2 can be more profitably converted into Algae, containing Vegetable Oil, Carbohydrates, BioMass and Proteins. This also fixes the CO2 which is otherwise released into atmosphere and this reduction in release of CO2 into atmosphere reduces Carbon Tax for the company. For a 50 Kilo Liters per day Ethanol Distillery:
Latest Developments: The subject is studied, in last few years, with fairly specific aspect of algae, their ability to produce natural oils, finding algae that produced a lot of oil, but also with algae that grow under severe conditions, extremes of temperature, pH and salinity. There are around 300 species, mostly green algae and diatoms. Nutrient deficiency was the major factor. The common thread among the studies showing increased oil production under stress seems to be the observed cessation of cell division. While the rate of production of all cell components is lower under nutrient starvation, oil production seems to remain higher, leading to an accumulation of oil in the cells. The increased oil content of the algae does not to lead to increased overall productivity of oil. In fact, overall rates of oil production are lower during periods of nutrient deficiency. Higher levels of oil in the cells are more than offset by lower rates of cell growth. The main aim is to isolate the enzyme Acetyl CoA Carboxylase (ACCase) from a diatom. This enzyme was found to catalyze a key metabolic step in the synthesis of oils in algae.
There are a number of benefits that serve as driving force for developing and deploying algae technology. Some of these benefits have already been mentioned. The first two key areas address national and international issues that continue to grow in importance, energy security and climate change. The other areas address aspects of algae technology that differentiate it from other technology options.
While there may be uncertainty and even contention over when and if there is a national security issue, there is one more piece to the puzzle that influences our perspective on this issue. This is the fact that, quite simply, 98% of the transportation sector relies on petroleum (mostly in the form of gasoline and diesel fuel). The implication of this indisputable observation is that even minor hiccups in the supply of oil could have crippling effects on rich nations. This lends special significance to the Bio fuels Program as a means of diversifying the fuel base in transportation sector.