Algae Might Replace Imported Fuel in Iceland
Biodiesel could be produced from algae in such quantities that it could replace imported fuel and Iceland even has the potential to export biodiesel, according to Ásbjörn Torfason, managing director of Vistvæn orka ehf.
Archive photo by Páll Stefánsson.
Ásbjörn states that energy-saving light emitting diode technology and access to geothermal energy makes circumstances to produce biodiesel from large algae or seaweed unique, Fréttablaðið reports.
He reasons that judging by the amount of fuel imported in 2011, two million tons of biomass would have to be produced to replace it. “But it is absolutely reasonable; in an experiment in Norway, they harvested 40-50 tons of dry weight from every hectare.”
His company is planning to take samples next summer to look for areas suitable for algae cultivation. “We advertised for biologists for this project and have received many applications from very qualified people,” Ásbjörn said.
The next step would be experimental cultivation offshore in selected locations.
Experiments with producing biodiesel from algae have been launched by companies such as Statoil, DuPont and Novozymes.
However, cultivation abroad is said to be limited by suitable areas and access to energy resources for the production process; heat centrifugation is used to extract biodiesel from algae.
Ásbjörn has his sights set on a few areas that could be suitable for such fuel production in Iceland, including the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland, Þeistareykir and by Krafla in the northeast, where geothermal power plants are planned or at hand.
A few types of fuel can be produced from algae, such as biogas, bioethanol and biobutanol which are very similar to gasoline. Byproducts can also be used as either animal fodder or fertilizers.
Vistvæn orka has achieved success in the development of light emitting diode technology, which is used for lighting in greenhouses for various cultivation purposes.
It greatly reduces the energy usage during cultivation, or by 50 percent compared to conventional greenhouse lamps.