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Co-author of NRC’s Algal Biofuel Sustainability Report Clarifies

November 8, 2012
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

University of Arizona associate professor Joel L. Cuello

University of Arizona associate professor Joel L. Cuello

J dropcapoel Cuello, a professor in the University of Arizona department of agricultural and biosystems engineering, and co-author of the recently released National Research Council report on algal sustainability as a biofuel, has clarified some of the assessments made in the report that have come under scrutiny.

Cuello points out that the report should not come as a surprise to experts. “All of the federally funded research projects on algal biofuels are, at least indirectly, already working to address these concerns that we identified and explicitly stated because people have been aware of these challenges – though perhaps not with the degree of process integration that is required.”

“In other words, if scaled up today, the resources that have to go into production would not be sustainable,” he said. “However, in our report we say that this not a show stopper, because there are technology combinations that can be designed and developed to make the production process more environmentally sustainable.”

For algal biofuels to contribute a significant amount of fuel for transportation in the future, the committee says, research and development would be needed to improve algal strains, test additional strains for desired characteristics, advance the materials and methods for growing and processing algae into fuels, and reduce the energy requirements for multiple stages of production.

“Our report brings awareness to address the concerns of making production not only commercially viable but environmentally sustainable,” he says. “In my opinion, you can’t divorce the two. As a matter of fact, most efforts aiming at lowering the production costs are to make the process more sustainable in terms of energy, water, and nutrient use.”

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