New Algae Proves a Promising Source of Biofuel

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Tuesday September 15, 2015

IHI Corp. says it has been able to grow Botryococcus, a strain of algae that can deliver more than 50 percent of its dry weight in oil, easily in an outdoor environment, media reports.

IHI, which had previously been cultivating algae in Yokohama, built a 1,500-square-meter facility in Kagoshima earlier this year; its breakthrough in outdoor algae growth is significant, because according to some sources a hectare of algal culture is capable of producing 137,000 liters of oil annually.

IHI notes that Botryococcus is able to produce twice to 10 times as much oil compared to coconuts, an important source of biofuel.

Tsutomu Narikiyo, deputy general manager of the IHI's Corporate Business Development Division, told The Asahi Shimbun, "We were able to establish a basic method that enables us to grow the algae outdoors with ease and little supervision."

The Asahi Shimbun also reported that with large-scale production at low cost a possibility, many corporations in Japan are advancing their algae growing capabilities, and that the Japanese government is hoping to use algae biofuel in the aviation sector as early as 2020.

It noted, however, that a liter of oil from algae currently costs about 250 yen ($2), and that costs would need to be lowered to about 100 yen per liter ($0.83) to make its use economically feasible.

Earlier this year, Scottish researchers claimed that two strains of algae found in the North Atlantic would be "ideal sources" for biofuel.