* All-gas project makes step forward
* Algae biofuel development still at early stage
LONDON Aug 8 A European Union-backed project to
produce biofuels from algae moved a step forward on Thursday by
producing its first crop of algae biomass at its site in
southern Spain, the main company behind the scheme said on
The "All-gas" project will cultivate fast-growing
micro-algae by using the nutrients in wastewater and then by
further processes generate biomethane which can be captured and
used in transport fuel.
The biomass obtained from the algae crop showed high energy
potential with a methane production capacity of 200-300 litres
of gas per kilogram of biomass processed, water company FCC
"This original new approach to bioenergy means that Spain's
40 million population could power 200,000 vehicles every year
with a single toilet flush," said Frank Rogalla, the project's
coordinator and director of innovation and technology at FCC
Some 7.1 million euros ($9.46 million) of the scheme's
initial 12-million-euro development funding came from the EU,
which is aiming for 10 percent of its energy used in transport
to be derived from renewable sources by 2020.
It is hoped algae biofuels will eventually help ease the
pressure that land-intensive biofuel crops, such as palm oil,
put on output and prices of food crops.
However, development is still at a very early stage, there
is no large-scale production in Europe and, along with the
progress announced on Thursday, FCC Aquilia has also ruled out
some of its earlier ideas for producing biodiesel after it
Experts say costs must be cut dramatically to make
production commercially viable and the U.S. National Research
Council has said the technology only had the potential to
generate a tiny percentage of U.S. transport needs and would
need to use enormous quantities of water to do so.
In June, French genome engineering company Cellectis
said it had six months to prove the effectiveness of
its technology to produce biofuel from algae if it is to move on
with the investment with partner Total.
In 2009, Exxon Mobil Corp. said it would invest $600
million to develop algae-derived biofuels within a decade. It
has already invested more than $100 million but has failed to
produce economically viable results after four years' work.
Assuming the Spanish project, launched in May 2011,
continues on track, construction of a 10-hectare plant in
Chiclana, southern Spain, is planned for completion by 2016, FCC