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Weekly Current Affairs: Week 5- September 2022 (32 Topics)

Can algae biofuels become viable?

Context

To harness the potential of Algae in biofuel production and to reduce dependence on conventional fossil fuels like petrol and diesel, several industrial and government initiatives have been launched since last decade.

So, let us see up to what extend it is viable.

About

What is Biofuel?

  • Biofuelis a fuel that is produced over a short time span from biomass, rather than by the very slow natural processes involved in the formation of fossil fuels, such as oil.
  • Biofuel can be produced from plants or from agricultural, domestic or industrial bio waste.

How it can be produced from Algae?

  • Algae can be produced in ponds or tanks on land, and out at sea.
  • Algal fuels have high yields, can be grown with minimal impact on fresh water resources, can be produced using saline water and wastewater, have a high ignition point, and are biodegradable and relatively harmless to the environment if spilled.
  • Production requires large amounts of energy and fertilizer, the produced fuel degrades faster than other biofuels, and it does not flow well in cold temperatures.

Types of Biofuels:

  • Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermentation, mostly from carbohydrates produced in sugar or starch crops such as corn, sugarcane, or sweet sorghum.
  • Cellulosic biomass, derived from non-food sources, such as trees and grasses, is also being developed as a feedstock for ethanol production.
  • Biodiesel is produced from oils or fats using trans-esterification.
  • It can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form (B100), but it is usually used as a diesel additive to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons from diesel-powered vehicles.

India’s position in Algae based biofuel production

  • India’s Reliance Industries Ltd recently highlighting the cutting-edge algae-to-fuel technology it has developed. The company has been successfully running large algae raceway ponds the last five years to convert sunshine, CO2 and seawater into bio-oil.
  • Under the INSPIRE programme of ministry of science and technology has initiated growing low cost biodiesel from microalgae.

Advantages

Disadvantages

  • Algae grows quickly, doubling every few hours, and can be harvested daily.
  • It provides combined energy storage of oils and carbohydrates produces high yields of biofuels per acreage.
  • It also absorbs carbon dioxide, absorbs emissions from power plants, and can be cultivated on land, and in water, that's otherwise unsuitable for agriculture.
  • With its rich micronutrient content, microalgae biomass can be used to produce animal feeds and dietary supplements alike.
  • It can purify waste water like industrial effluents and animal waste.
  • Less efficient than normal carbon fuels as they can produce only 2.2 to 1.5 EJ per year.
  • More price oriented and needs finances to set up the industries at large scale.
  • To be handle with care and needs expertise to grow algae for fuel production.
  • Needs adequate facilities and environment to grow for e.g. Temperature, pressure, Fodder etc.
  • Affordability of Infrastructure and growth of big giant industries.
  • Large water requirements
  • More cost of extraction of bio-oils

 Global situation

  • In 2019, worldwide biofuel production provided 3% of the world's fuels for road transport, and a very small amount of aviation biofuel.
  • The International Energy Agencywants biofuels to meet more than a quarter of the world demand for transportation fuels by 2050, in order to reduce dependency on petroleum.
  • However, the production and consumption of biofuels are not on track to meet the IEA's sustainable development scenario.
  • From 2020 to 2030 global biofuel output has to increase by 10% each year to reach IEA's goal

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