Pentagon May Turn to Algae to Replace Oil

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Some of the nation’s most important technological developments have come out of the military, and the Department of Defense may have done it again with a revolutionary way to make jet fuel out of algae. While many biotechnology companies have been working on ways to transform plant material into fuel, the famed research wing of the Pentagon, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), recently announced that it is close to actually producing a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels for the U.S. Air Force.

After spending $35 million on research by two companies, SAIC and General Atomics, DARPA officials say the military could soon begin large-scaling refining of oil from algae at a cost of less than $3 a gallon. Furthermore, they insist the cost could drop to something closer to $1 per gallon.
Weaning itself off petroleum-based fuel would be huge for the military, the nation’s largest consumer of oil; it eats up between 60 and 75 million barrels of oil a year. The development of fuel from algae, however, could also impact the commercial airline industry which is always looking for ways to cut its fuel costs.
If the new fuel source proves viable, the discovery could go down in the annals of DARPA’s successes that include creating the first internet and satellite navigation systems.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Algae to Solve the Pentagon's Jet Fuel Problem (by Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian)


khesanh 10 years ago
With Americacan companies such as Biocentric Energy(BEHL) a recognized leader in the forefront of research and development (Oil&Gas Review-Jan.2010 Pg.44) and praised by the American Algae Association as the Wall Mart of algae systems in a joint venture with Renewed World Energies, the US military will find that they have a low cost, enviromentally safe system that is so portable that they come ready packaged in 20'x8' containers they could load up into C 130 air craft and drop anywhere in the world complete with monitoring equipment,computers,a library,medical facilities,and complete system that rolls out so fast that a trained squad could set up a 10 acre syste faster tha it would take to fill it with water.
Ariel 10 years ago
As far as I know, refining is not the biggest problem with Algae fuel production. The problem is growing it and harvesting it-- particularly growing it. There is a serious question as to the energy balance in algae cultivation and the ability to consistently grow it on a mass scale. Growing Algae has yet to be proven to be faster than the cultivation of terrestrial crops. Also, except in specific situations, for instance, where Algae would be grown in CO2 rich coal power plant discharges, there is a big question as to whether there can be achieved a positive energy balance (that is, that the energy input will be significantly less than the energy output). I'm just a layman, but this is my understanding. Would love to hear other comments.

Leave a comment