Algae-Derived Fuel on Market May Have Long-Term Effects on Resources, Environment Says A&M-Corpus Christi Researcher

Could result in the significant loss of resources and negative environmental effects.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The production of algal biofuels, particularly the use of freshwater culturing practices, could result in the significant loss of resources and negative environmental effects, according to the National Academy of Science report titled "Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States" co-authored by Dr. Paul Zimba from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Zimba, Director of the University's Center for Coastal Studies, worked with 15 scientists across the nation to develop the report released in October.


The sustainability report precedes last week's announcement of the first algae-derived fuel becoming available for consumers in California and Washington. The report analyzes how the large-scale production of renewable algal biofuels has the potential to improve energy security and decrease greenhouse-gas emissions, but could result in substantial use of natural resources, and have environmental and societal consequences.

"We're examining how biofuels made from algae could help meet our nation's energy demands and contribute to the innovation of upcoming production," said Zimba, an expert of algae in aquaculture systems. "But we also need to identify the impact that its mass production could have on water availability and fertilizer consumption."

Water losses can exceed 1,000 gallons per gallon of oil produced. Options to reduce this include use of saltwater, enclosed systems that reduce evaporation, and recycling efforts for both nutrients and water.

About Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi: Offering more than 60 of the most popular degree programs in the state, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has proudly provided a solid academic reputation, renowned faculty, and highly-rated degree programs since 1947. The Island University has earned its spot as one of the top research institutions in Texas and supports two marine-oriented Ph.D. programs. For more information, go to http://www.tamucc.edu/.

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