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PNNL study shows 25 billion gallon algae fuel potential in U.S.

May 22, 2013
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), in Richland, WA has just released a new analysis that shows land and water resources could likely support the growth of enough algae to produce up to 25 billion gallons of algae-based fuel a year in the United States, one-twelfth of the country’s yearly needs.

The findings come from an in-depth look at the water resources that would be needed to grow significant amounts of algae in large, specially built shallow ponds. The results were published in the May 7 issue of Environmental Science and Technology, published by the American Chemical Society.

PNNL researchers Mark Wigmosta (lleft) and Erik Venteris (right).

PNNL researchers Mark Wigmosta (lleft) and Erik Venteris (right).

“While there are many details still to be worked out, we don’t see water issues as a deal breaker for the development of an algae biofuels industry in many areas of the country,” said first author Erik Venteris of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“The Gulf Coast offers a good combination of warm temperatures, low evaporation, access to an abundance of water, and plenty of fuel-processing facilities,” said hydrologist Mark Wigmosta, the leader of the team that did the analysis.

A previous report by the same team looked mainly at how much demand algae farms would create for freshwater. That report demonstrated that oil based on algae have the potential to replace a significant portion of the nation’s oil imports and drew the attention of President Obama. The new report focuses on actual water supplies and looks at a range of possible sources of water, including fresh groundwater, salty or saline groundwater, and seawater.

The work was funded by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. In addition to Venteris and Wigmosta, PNNL scientists Richard Skaggs and Andre Coleman contributed to the project and authored the study.

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