Biofuels U.S. government funds research for algae biofuel and cattle feed

Published on July 20th, 2010 | by Tina Casey


Holy Sustainble Cow! Ordinary Algae Can Double as Biofuel and Cattle Feed, Too

July 20th, 2010 by  

U.S. government funds research for algae biofuel and cattle feedThe U.S. Department of Energy recently announced $9 million in funding for research into the use of algae that occur naturally in seawater to produce a sustainable twofer: renewable algae biofuel and algae fodder for cattle, too.  Hey, make that a threefer: studies have found that an algae diet can reduce methane emissions from cows, which is a major source of greenhouse gasses.


The funds will go to a Hawaii-based group called Cellana, LLC Consortium.  The use of naturally ocurring algae is an interesting twist on current research, much of which is focused on engineering new strains of algae for biofuels. It’s also interesting because the consortium leader, Cellana, is a joint venture of renewable energy startup HR BioPetroleum and oil industry giant Shell – yes, that Shell.  I guess biofuels makes strange bedfellows but if it gets the job done, let’s do it.

Cellana and Sustainable Biofuel from Algae

Cellana’s pilot plant in Hawaii uses garden variety marine microalgae (well, not just any algae — it’s carefully selected from thousands of potential candidates), cultivated in open seawater ponds.  From a sustainability perspective, the use of saltwater species is noteworthy in the context of concerns over the future of global freshwater supplies. After extracting algal oil for biofuel, the process yields quantities of biomass containing protein and carbohydrates, 100% of which can be used as animal feed, primarily as a replacement for fishmeal.  The federal grant will go to tweak the process in order to optimize the production efficiency, which is needed in order to design commercial scale facilities without overwhelming available supplies of land on which to site them.  The value-added potential from sales of animal feed could also help make large scale facilities commercially viable, even if the biofuel feedstock itself is pricier than petroleum products.

Many Roads to Sustainable Algae Biofuel

Writer Eric Wesoff provides a comprehensive overview of algae biofuel’s rocky road, starting with Jimmy Carter’s 1978 initiative.  He points out that animal feed is just one of several value-added potentials in algae biofuel production, which would include cosmetics, nutrition supplements, and specialty oils that could be used in foods destined for human consumption, but also notes that significant technological and operational hurdles remain.  At least one of those hurdles, though, seems to be on the verge of fading away: researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have identified a protein that keeps green algae from overdosing on sunlight during photosynthesis. The discovery could lead to low-cost production methods, by eliminating the need for a bioreactor and by enabling the cultivation of algae in high efficiency, closed conditions rather than in open ponds.

Image: Algae by suavehouse113 on 
Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”
Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.


Tags: , , , ,

About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Algae really seems to be catching on as the new way of creating bio-diesel. I just met with a scientist the other day who has his own patents for converting algae to fuel.

  • Ari Maayan

    Any cheap commercial nitrogen fertilizer will do.

  • Some algae are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen. See

    I don’t know if the algae mentioned in this article are of that type.

  • Nitrogen can partly be obtained by using CO2 from a waste gas stream of a power plant. The waste gas contains NOx. It is important to find a way not to use petro chemical fertilizers, so there ar options in using waste water to provide N, P and K.

  • JS

    While it is clear algae obtain carbon from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, where are they obtaining nitrogen in a form suitable for synthesizing the protein that will be sold as feed?

Back to Top ↑
  • Advertisements

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Cool Cleantech Events

    Low Voltage Electrification Event, April 25-27. Detroit, Michigan (US)
    Delve deep into the benefits and challenges associated with EV power supply.

    Offshore Wind Market Development USA, May 11-12, Boston, Massachusetts (US)
    Network and establish your business in one of North America’s largest energy industries.

    Energy Storage USA, June 15-16, San Diego, California (US)
    Only event in the United States focused exclusively on the commercialization of storage.

    More details are on: Cleantech Events.

  • Advertisement

  • CleanTechnica Electric Car Report

    Electric Cars Early Adopters First Followers
  • Tesla Model 3 Review by EVANNEX

    Tesla Model 3 Review from EVANNEX
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Video

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model 3 Exclusive Pictures

    Tesla Model 3 Video
  • Tesla Model X Review #1 (Video)

    Tesla Model X Review from new owners Zach Shahan
  • Tesla Model X Review #2 (Pictures)

    Tesla Model X Review from Kyle Field
  • Tesla Model S Long-Term Review

    Tesla Model S Long Term Review from Kyle Field
  • Nissan LEAF Long-Term Review

    Nissan LEAF Long Term Review from Cynthia Shahan
  • Interview with Michael Liebreich

    Interview with Michael Liebreich
  • Interview with Akon (Teslas & Solar)

    Interview with Akon Tesla Model S Tesla Model X Solar Power Africa
  • Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany

    Interview with Dr Nawal Al-Hosany
  • Interview with Gro Brundtland

    Gro Brundtland
  • Interview with President of Iceland

    President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
  • Interview with Nick Sampson

    Faraday Future VP Nick Sampson
  • Interview with Dipal Barua

    Dipal Barua 1st ZFEP WInner
  • Interview with Jonathon Porritt

    Jonathon Porritt
  • Interview with Clint Wilder

    Interview with Clint Wilder
  • Interviews with Solar Impulse Pilots

    Bertrand Piccard Andre Borschberg
  • Check out more CleanTechnica Videos.

  • Join The Solar Revolution!

    Edison-solar-energy solar-energy-spill-nice-day
  • Cost of Solar Panels

  • Search the IM Network