Why microalgal biofuels won't save the internal combustion machine
|Jan B. van Beilen *|
|University of Lausanne, Switzerland|
|email: Jan B. van Beilen (Jan.VanBeilen@unil.ch)|
*Correspondence to Jan B. van Beilen, Department of Molecular Plant Biology, Le Biophore, Quartier Sorge, University of Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.
|microalgae • biofuels • biodiesel • yield • cost • energy balance • commercial|
|Proponents of microalgae biofuel technologies often claim that the world demand of liquid fuels, about 5 trillion liters per year, could be supplied by microalgae cultivated on only a few tens of millions of hectares. This perspective reviews this subject and points out that such projections are greatly exaggerated, because (1) the productivities achieved in large-scale commercial microalgae production systems, operated year-round, do not surpass those of irrigated tropical crops; (2) cultivating, harvesting and processing microalgae solely for the production of biofuels is simply too expensive using current or prospective technology; and (3) currently available (limited) data suggest that the energy balance of algal biofuels is very poor. Thus, microalgal biofuels are no panacea for depleting oil or global warming, and are unlikely to save the internal combustion machine. Copyright © 2009 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd|