Question: Can algae blooms be used for oil production?

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Ag8n asked on October 16, 2018 22:24
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Many algae blooms show up in the oceans. But, algae blooms are also being used by alternate energy groups to produce synthetic oil. Is there a way to combine the two?

Thank you.



2 Comments

Hi @Ag8n - interesting! I know that folks have used IR cameras and NDVI imaging to identify algae blooms using aerial photography, but I have to admit I don't know a whole lot about the processes used to convert algae into oils-- my understanding is that processes are designed around particular kinds of algae, which are fine-tuned in a lab. We've started being able to ID algae with the community microscope, so it would be interesting to see if there is a way to combine the microscope and NDVI imaging to come up with a rubric for identifying particular kinds of algae blooms from a distance.

Are you asking about the possibility of farming (sourcing?) from algae in the oceans for energy production as a means to help scale back harmful blooms? Either at a commercial scale, or something that could be DIY'd? Would be interested to hear a little more about what you're thinking!

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Thank you for your reply.  The problem is in the midwest/great lakes area.  This is fresh water.  For whatever reason, there has been an overly high level of fertilizer work it's way into the waste stream (usually in the form of N and P ) which has led to algae showing up in lake erie, some of the state parks, and probably a lot of private ponds. 

So, there has been legislation passed on when fertilization can be done, etc.  It has been somewhat effective. I am doubtful about the long-term chances of success.

So if algae is going to grow anyway, why not choose a proper algae and put it to good use? A check of the literature shows oil( including food oil), biodiesel, ethanol, biobutanol, etc.  This looks to be in the distant future, but best to start on it now.

Thank you.



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bronwen wrote:


Hi @Ag8n - interesting! I know that folks have used IR cameras and NDVI imaging to identify algae blooms using aerial photography, but I have to admit I don't know a whole lot about the processes used to convert algae into oils-- my understanding is that processes are designed around particular kinds of algae, which are fine-tuned in a lab. We've started being able to ID algae with the community microscope, so it would be interesting to see if there is a way to combine the microscope and NDVI imaging to come up with a rubric for identifying particular kinds of algae blooms from a distance. Are you asking about the possibility of farming (sourcing?) from algae in the oceans for energy production as a means to help scale back harmful blooms? Either at a commercial scale, or something that could be DIY'd? Would be interested to hear a little more about what you're thinking!


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