Biofuels

Published on October 16th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz

21

Man Creates Homemade Biodiesel from Algae

October 16th, 2008 by  

biodiesel

Plenty of companies are working on creating biodiesel from algae, but this is the first I’ve heard of an individual making homemade algae-based biodiesel . Australian Charlie Trafford has been making biodiesel from cooking oil for many years, but he recently decided to switch over to a more sustainable source— algae.

So Charlie, a friend, and a biochemist set out to grow algae comprised of 10 to 40 percent oil. Eventually, the crew actually succeeded in building a unit that can produce a few liters oil a day. In the process, they supposedly created a technique to grow and harvest enough algae to make it commercially viable for biodiesel.

Now the retirees are looking for financial assistance to develop their technology. Of course, they’ll have plenty of competition from existing companies. But whatever the outcome of their commercial aspirations, Trafford and co. deserve kudos for their do-it-yourself success.


Check out our new 93-page EV report.

Join us for an upcoming Cleantech Revolution Tour conference!

Tags: , ,


About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



  • Pingback: Mothers "no" best about DIY energy projects [cartoon] | Eco-Snobbery Sucks()

  • Pingback: Hank D and the Bee: Mothers “no” best()

  • Pingback: Hank D and the Bee: Mothers “no” best – Ecoscraps()

  • Pingback: Hank D and the Bee: Mothers “no” best | Joe Mohr's Cartoon Archive()

  • Amir

    Dear Garret, could I get in touch with you?, if so, my email acdcookies@gmail.com

  • Amir

    Dear Garret, could I get in touch with you?, if so, my email acdcookies@gmail.com

  • It would seem to me that learning “the art” is more difficult than you might think. After searching the web there is suprisingly little information on creating biodiesel form algae. The above story gets repeated over and over and Charlie Trafford has a “secret’ recipe.

    The other “reference” I keep coming across is the video of the Stanford Univiersity guy who build his own reactor. Other than that, it’s thin, very thin (just maybe algaegeek.com might cut it).

    It is very possible, and I agree with Garret, this needs to be out in the open, quickly. If, or rather when, I get around to it, I will defenitely make the knowledge open source.

    I can’t help feeling that some folks do not want this to be public knowledge, it’s just to easy to make at home.

  • It would seem to me that learning “the art” is more difficult than you might think. After searching the web there is suprisingly little information on creating biodiesel form algae. The above story gets repeated over and over and Charlie Trafford has a “secret’ recipe.

    The other “reference” I keep coming across is the video of the Stanford Univiersity guy who build his own reactor. Other than that, it’s thin, very thin (just maybe algaegeek.com might cut it).

    It is very possible, and I agree with Garret, this needs to be out in the open, quickly. If, or rather when, I get around to it, I will defenitely make the knowledge open source.

    I can’t help feeling that some folks do not want this to be public knowledge, it’s just to easy to make at home.

  • Whow! Very nice news. I would try to produce biodiesel, for fun: is there a way to be introduced in this art?

  • Whow! Very nice news. I would try to produce biodiesel, for fun: is there a way to be introduced in this art?

  • Tony Rusi

    Ariel,

    Can you verify this story by contacting Charlie Trafford directly please. So many of my friends think it is a scam. Could you also interview Dr. Glen Kertz of Valcent and get his actual production numbers to date. You should also do a review of Josh Tickell’s movie titled “Fuel”.

  • Tony Rusi

    Ariel,

    Can you verify this story by contacting Charlie Trafford directly please. So many of my friends think it is a scam. Could you also interview Dr. Glen Kertz of Valcent and get his actual production numbers to date. You should also do a review of Josh Tickell’s movie titled “Fuel”.

  • Garrett

    Growing algae for bio diesel is cool, but the technical expertise necessary to make it commercially is daunting. Ethanol is a much simpler fuel that can be made using technology that anyone can put together in their backyard. The argument that ethanol production somehow competes with other food production may be accurate in some cases, specifically where large agro-chemical corporations have tried to grow corn for ethanol factories. However, very practical production of ethanol can happen using more energy dense and yield efficient crops. One such crop is cattail reeds. Grown in household wastewater an acre of cattail can yield over 100,000 gallons of ethanol per year, and does not conflict with food crop farm production. As an added benefit, the cattail assist in remediating sewage. Such operations can be as small as a backyard greywater pond coupled with a methane digester fitted as a septic tank. The waste pulp left from fermentation and stillage is actually protein enriched livestock feed due to yeast and microbial activity. Higher yields can be achieved by adding cellulosic conversion of stalks and stems in the ethanol stillage. High cost enzymatic cellulose conversion is unnecessary with the use of sulfuric acid for cellulose decomposition.

    Algae cultivation (for bio-diesel and/or as food for aquaculture) has a place in such a system, as an air scrubber to absorb CO2 from fermentation and methane production. Such systems can be scaled as small as a single household on a little land, to aggregated waste/energy for metro condos and apts.

    I “get” the bio-deisel urge, and applaud it as an alternative to an oil derrick, but at the time of the model-T car there were more stills in the US than gasoline stands, and my grandfathers model-T still gets 31mpg running entirely on ethanol that he’s always made in the back 40 under cover of night “an hidden from the revenue-ers”. It always makes me wonder whose idea prohibition was?

    Someone needs to design and release a blueprint for energy which households can install with basic plumbing and a little electrical wiring skill; and that plan needs to be free and open to anyone with the will to build it.

  • bob the mob

    @Durwood

    I think the benefits of making the US energy self-reliant outweigh the costs.

  • bob the mob

    @Durwood

    I think the benefits of making the US energy self-reliant outweigh the costs.

  • We have a University here in Arizona that is going all out to make algae commercially viable. It looks possible. How great is that?

  • We have a University here in Arizona that is going all out to make algae commercially viable. It looks possible. How great is that?

  • Plenty of companies are working on creating biodiesel from algae, but this is the first I ve heard of an individual making homemade algae-based biodiesel.

  • Plenty of companies are working on creating biodiesel from algae, but this is the first I ve heard of an individual making homemade algae-based biodiesel.

  • Anyone with a little technical background can make algae oil/bio-diesel. For some reason people can’t seem to get it through their skulls that making algae based fuel isn’t where the problem is. It’s making algae oil at an economically feasible price that is the real challenge. The definition of economic feasibility is making algae for a price that competes with petroleum based fuels at their lowest production costs. Only ten years ago crude oil was less than $30 a barrel. Many stocks are already below where they were 10 years ago, and it remains to be seen how low the price of oil will fall. Production costs for the cheapest crude is probably below $20/barrel – there is still a lot of profit in petroleum even at today’s $67/b. This means to survive commercially as algae oil fuel producer, you have to produce algae oil diesel fuel at under $2.00 US/gallon – or you are just another hobbyist.

  • Anyone with a little technical background can make algae oil/bio-diesel. For some reason people can’t seem to get it through their skulls that making algae based fuel isn’t where the problem is. It’s making algae oil at an economically feasible price that is the real challenge. The definition of economic feasibility is making algae for a price that competes with petroleum based fuels at their lowest production costs. Only ten years ago crude oil was less than $30 a barrel. Many stocks are already below where they were 10 years ago, and it remains to be seen how low the price of oil will fall. Production costs for the cheapest crude is probably below $20/barrel – there is still a lot of profit in petroleum even at today’s $67/b. This means to survive commercially as algae oil fuel producer, you have to produce algae oil diesel fuel at under $2.00 US/gallon – or you are just another hobbyist.

Back to Top ↑