There are estimated to be some 300,000 - 10 million species of algae living on earth.

The algae can produce oils for biodiesel, and pharmaceuticals, edible oils, biohydrogen, and animal feedstock. 

Algal oil can be harvested from large-scale open ponds or closed algal photo-bioreactors.

In Qld, NSW, and Vic and WA, there are trial algae ponds breathing flue gas from power stations.. 

But in order to supply enough fuel for the aeroplane fleet of the world, the algae would need the area of Belgium.

The good news is algae will grow in salt water, in a desert. 

No one has yet found an algal strain suitable for the purpose. All trials are producing high priced chemicals such as omega 3 as a food supplement, or cosmetics. The cost is still high and cannot compete with oil.

The main problems are:

  • growth of competing strains that don't produce oil,
  • removing the oil from the plant. This can take as much energy as the oil contains.

There is as lot of work going on here. And a lot of hopes.

Mu​radel algae

An Adelaide based company has a 4,000 sq m pilot plant in Whyalla
Halophytic microalgae are grown in open raceway ponds using seawater. Nutrients are recycled to minimise waste as well as cost. 

The algae are havested with "electro flocculation" .

Muradel’s method of producing crude oil a new form of farming using "abandoned land" and seawater. The microalgae are grown in a mixed pond of saltwater, to which nutrients and carbon dioxide are added. The resulting microalgae is continuously harvested and concentrated into microalgal biomass, which then undergoes hydrothermal liquefaction to become what Muradel calls “green crude”. Despite the name, it is just as black as conventional crude oil and can be used in exactly the same way,

According to Muradel’s figures, producing 35,000 litres of fuel a year with soybean crops requires 78 hectares, whereas producing it from microalgae requires just one.

“Our calculations show that it would require just 0.21% of Australia’s total land area to produce all the crude oil the country needs

They are vague on details, but it seems the algae is heated with hot water (sub critical) and converted to oil in 2 minutes. (Hydrothermal liquefaction). The oil is equivalent to crude oil and is processed in an oil refinery,

Source: Muradel,  International resource journal

Algae Tec aircraft fuel trial

Perth, Western Australia-based bio fuels company Algae.Tec has inked a deal with German airline Lufthansa for the construction of a large- scale aviation biofuels production facility.

The site will be in Europe, adjacent to an industrial CO2 source.

Lufthansa will arrange all funding and Algae.Tec will receive licence fees and profits from the project, which it will manage.

As part of the agreement, the airline has committed to a long-term agreement to buy at least 50% of the crude oil produced at an agreed price.

The agreement forms the base for a long-term co-operation between Algae.Tec and Lufthansa for biofuels output suited to conversion to aviation kerosene and conventional diesel fuels.

Source: Announcement on ASX

The World's Largest Beta-Carotene Farm

Hutt Lagoon, a salt lagoon separated from the ocean by a thin strip of land. Hutt is home to the biggest algae farm in the world, a 418,000sqm warren of saline water and algae owned by Cognis, the massive German pharmaceutical company. There, Cognis has farmed beta-Carotene for over 30 years — it’s used to colour food like margarine, but also to create the coatings on pharmaceutical drugs.

 Bojan Tamburic and Arunima Malik  put algae biofuels under the cost-benefit microscope, to assess the viability of developing a full-scale algae biofuel industry in Australia.  The results are striking: a large-scale algae biofuel production facility would create almost 13,000 new jobs and A$4 billion worth of economic stimulus in Australia.

It would generate a total economic stimulus of 77 cents for every dollar invested, compared with just 13 cents in the dollar for traditional crude oil exploration and extraction.  

Commercial algae biofuel production is now a challenge of scale. The prize is phenomenal. Algae ponds covering an area the size of Sydney could satisfy the entire crude oil demand of Australia, which would do wonders for both sustainability and security of supply – currently, 82% of crude oil is imported


Photo: Steve Brack

the world’s largest algae farm in Hutt WA produces beta carotene



Growing algae in a membrane bag

NASA has a project to grow algae in quarter acre bags in the sea. The bags are fed by a sewage outfall. The waves stir everything to keep it mixed. Because sewage is freshwater, the algae too will be suited to freshwater. Once they have consumed the nutrient and CO2, the clean fresh water will escape from the bags by osmosis. The bags should fill up every 10 days or so.

The project s OMEGA - Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae. The idea is produce biofuel without competing with agriculture for water, fertilizer or land. It should prevent the creation of a dead zone in the ocean around the outfall.


EU Energy project - All-Gas

This is a combined European Union project to grow algae for transport fuel. Development is at a 10 ha site on a wastewater treatment plant in Southern Spain.

 The main objective is to reduce the inherent energy of fertilisers necessary for algae production, which consume around 12 to 15 kwh/kg N. With up to 10 % of algae dry matter, the nitrogen input can be close to 30 % of the thermal energy content of algae (estimated at 5000 kwh/t), and be equivalent to the oil energy that can be extracted. 

The joint use of wastewater and biomass for algae cultivation turns two waste streams into a purified effluent for reuse, with energy biomass as a byproduct, with minimal electricity input and residual sludge.

The targeted algae yield is 100 t/ha/yr.

The harvested biomass will be processed to yield:
oils that can be transformed at an existing biodiesel plant. Assuming a net oil content of 20 %, enough biodiesel yearly to run close to 200 cars will be produced from the expected 3 dry t/d.
algae residuals that can be digested together with the wastewater solids from around 5000 m3/d of effluent. About 250 t methane/yr will be purified and compressed to serve as vehicle fuel for about 200 cars.
CO2 will be separated from the biogas and reused to reach the enhanced algae yield, together with CO2 from the combustion of agricultural biomass and wastewater residuals. 


Algal oil Joint Venture by IHI and Neo-Morgan Laboratory

Researchers at IHI NeoG Algae LLC, have developed ​called Enomoto Algae by selectively bred botryococcus braunii, a single-cell algae which grow in lakes and estuaries. 1.5 liters of liquid algae culture produce two to three milliliters of oil.

The quality is excellent, but it costs about 1,000 yen ($13 USD) per litre of algae oil. They plan to bring that down to the 100 yen per liter within 10 years. Source

Energy profit - 2013

“Estimates of greenhouse gas emissions over the life cycle of algal biofuel production span a wide range; some studies suggest that algal biofuel production generates less greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based fuels while other studies suggest the opposite.”


Australia is probably at the head of the algae game, and is more uniquely positioned to take advantage of development. It’s got the land for it and research is progressing full speed ahead. Scientists at the University of Queensland have made notable advances in algae biomass. They have identified hundreds of native species of freshwater and saltwater microscopic algae that could lead to new strains that are more efficient and cheaper, but also of a higher quality for production of biofuels. Right now they are testing these to determine the top performers.

The new logic is that the focus should be on microscopic algae, which is more stable and less attractive to predators, while the focus up until now has been on the most oil-rich strains.



Alcohol fuel

The algae’s carbohydrate content can be fermented into bioethanol and biobutanol

U.S. Departm​ent of Energy’s Aquatic Species Program: Biodiesel from Algae

From 1978 to 1996, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fuels Development funded a program to develop renewable transportation fuels from algae. The main focus of the program, know as the Aquatic Species Program (or ASP) was the production of biodiesel from high lipid-content algae grown in ponds, utilizing waste CO2 from coal fired power plants. Over the almost two decades of this program, tremendous advances were made in the science of manipulating the metabolism of algae and the engineering of microalgae algae production systems. 

Researchers collected 3000 algae and diatoms and selected 300 of interest.


The Aquatic Species Program (ASP) was a relatively small research effort intended

to look at the use of aquatic plants as sources of energy.

While its history dates back to 1978, much of the research from 1978 to 1982 was focused on using algae to produce hydrogen. The program switched emphasis to other transportation fuels, in particular biodiesel, beginning in the early 1980s.

Random notes

Microalgae can produce 30-100 times the oil yield of soybeans on marginal land and in brackish water. The biomass left-over from oil-pressing can either be fed to cattle as a protein supplement, or fermented into ethanol.

The big problem has been figuring out how to collect and press the algae, and in the case of open ponds, to prevent contamination by invasive species

Biodiesel performs as well as petroleum diesel, while reducing emissions of particulate matter, CO, hydrocarbons and SOx.  Emissions of NOx are, however, higher for biodiesel in many engines.  Biodiesel virtually eliminates the notorious black soot emissions associated with diesel engines.  Total particulate matter emissions are also much lower
Other environmental benefits of biodiesel include the fact that it is highly
biodegradable  and that it appears to reduce emissions of air toxics and carcinogens
(relative to petroleum diesel)

If evderything goes to plan and near theoretical growth was achieved, the cost of oil from algae will be about double the rice of oil from  underground.

Microalgae systems use far less water than traditional oilseed crops.  Land is hardly a limitation.  Two hundred thousand hectares (less than 0.1% of climatically suitable land areas in the U.S.) could produce one quad of fuel.  



Botryoccocus braunii

This ancient slow growing green algae produces oil. It has a very thick wall making standard oil extraction by crushing difficult. However most of the oil is outside the cell so hexane can be used to extract it without killing the algae.

The oil produced by this algae consists of Botryococcenes which can be chemically converted into fuels, but not diesel.

Transesterification cannot be used to make biodiesel because Botryococcene oil is not a vegetable oil ( fatty acid triglyceride) but is instead a triterpene, and lacks the free oxygen for transesterification. It can be used as feedstock for hydrocracking in an oil refinery to produce octane (petrol / gasoline), and kerosene. Up to 86% of its dry weight can be long chain hydrocarbons



Extraction of oil from Algae

The following is from the following website

Oil extraction from algae is a hotly debated topic currently because this process is one of the more costly processes which can determine the sustainability of algae-based biodiesel.

In terms of the concept, the idea is quite simple: Harvest the algae from its growth medium (using an appropriate separation process), and extract the oil out of it. Extraction can be broadly categorized into two methods:

  1. Mechanical methods

The mechanical methods are further classified into:

  • Expression/Expeller press
  • Ultrasonic-assisted extraction
  1. Chemical methods

The chemical methods are further classified into:

  • Hexane Solvent Method
  • Soxhlet extraction
  • Supercritical fluid Extraction 

Each of these methods has drawbacks: 

  1. The mechanical press generally requires drying the algae, which is energy intensive
  2. The use of chemical solvents present safety and health issues
  3. Supercritical extraction requires high pressure equipment that is both expensive and energy intensive. 

Many manufacturers of algae oil use a combination of mechanical pressing and chemical solvents in extracting oil.

Apart from these, there are some other methods which are not well-known. This includes the following:

Enzymatic extraction - Enzymatic extraction uses enzymes to degrade the cell walls with water acting as the solvent, this makes fractionation of the oil much easier. The costs of this extraction process are estimated to be much greater than hexane extraction.

Osmotic shock - Osmotic Shock is a sudden reduction in osmotic pressure, this can cause cells in a solution to rupture. Osmotic shock is sometimes used to release cellular components, such as oil.


  • Microscopic algae suspended in water are virtually indestructible
  • Cell wall has a high elasticity modulus
  • Even when free water has been removed, wet biomass retains sufficient interstitial water to act as lubricant
  • Rupture of cell wall through mechanical friction and steam explosion is only possible when dry


  1. a.Single-Step Extraction:

OriginOil claim their Single Step Process harvests, concentrates and extracts oil from algae in one step in less than an hour. The company’s Quantum Fracturing technology combines with electromagnetic pulses and pH modification to break down cell walls and release oil from the algae cells.

U.S, Dept of Energy VIDEO on algae

Question and answer on algae fuels

Find out everything there is to know about Algae Fuels. Get your doubts and queries answered by the global Algae Fuels community.

Sapphire Energy claim to be ready with their Green Crude, an algae produced oil the can be fed into a standard oil refinery. Their website however has been written for kindergarten students, so says nothing but how wonderful they are.