In Spain, scientists look for fuel of the future in algae

A A A

In a forest of tubes eight metres high in eastern Spain scientists hope they have found the fuel of tomorrow: bio-oil produced with algae mixed with carbon dioxide from a factory.

Almost 400 of the green tubes, filled with millions of microscopic algae, cover a plain near the city of Alicante, next to a cement works from which the C02 is captured and transported via a pipeline to the "blue petroleum" factory.

The project, which is still experimental, has been developed over the past five years by Spanish and French researchers at the small Bio Fuel Systems (BFS) company.

At a time when companies are redoubling their efforts to find alternative energy sources, the idea is to reproduce and speed up a process which has taken millions of years and which has led to the production of fossil fuels.

"We are trying to simulate the conditions which existed millions of years ago, when the phytoplankton was transformed into oil," said engineer Eloy Chapuli. "In this way, we obtain oil that is the same as oil today."

The microalgae reproduces at high speed in the tubes by photosynthesis and from the CO2 released from the cement factory.

Every day some of this highly concentrated liquid is extracted and filtered to produce a biomass that is turned into bio-oil.

The other great advantage of the system is that it is a depollutant - it absorbs the C02 which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

"It's ecological oil," said the founder and chairman of BFS, French engineer Bernard Stroiazzo-Mougin, who worked in oil fields in the Middle East before coming to Spain.

"We need another five to 10 years before industrial production can start," said Stroiazzo-Mougin, who hopes to be able to develop another such project on the Portuguese island of Madeira.

"In a unit that covers 50 square kilometres, which is not something enormous, in barren regions of southern Spain, we could produce about 1.25 million barrels per day," or almost as much as the daily export of oil from Iraq, he said.

BFS, a private company, hopes to negotiate "with several countries to obtain subsidies for the installation of artificial oil fields," he said.

Other similar projects being studied in other parts of the world.

In Germany, the Swedish energy group Vattenfall last year launched a pilot project in which algae is used to absorb carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power plant.

US oil giant ExxonMobil plans to invest up to $600 million in research on oil produced from algae.

Companies, in particular those in the aeronautic sector, have shown keen interest in this research, hoping to find a replacement for classic oil.

News
i100'Geography can be tough'
News
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

DevOps Engineer - Linux, Shell, Bash, Solaris, UNIX, Salt-Stack

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: A fast growing Financial Services organisation b...

Trade Desk FIX Analyst - (FIX, SQL, Equities, Support)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: An award-win...

DevOps Engineer - (Linux, Shell, Bash)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer - (Linux, Shell, Bash)DevOps Eng...

Retail Business Architect

Flexible for the right candidate: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: I have a fa...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis