A group of joined researchers from Mitsubishi and University of Marine Science and Technology released a proposal calling for massive seaweed / algae cultivation. This pilot projects occupy 10.000 kilometers square for seaweed farm. The researchers estimate that the farm will produce about 20 million kiloliters (5.3 billion gallons) of bioethanol per year. This is equal to one third of Japanese consumption on fuel in a year.
Seaweed / Algae has long been considered as an alternative option to produce bio fuel. Most biofuel today is produced from corn and sugar cane. According to the proposal the seaweed to be grown in the farm is from sargasso seaweed (hondawara). This type of seaweed can grow faster.
There will be floating bioreactors, these are special facilities that use enzyme to break down seaweed down into sugars. They would then prepared seaweed for conversion into ethanol. The conversion will be done at sea and then transported to land by tankers.
There are two main components of seaweed / algae that rise interest in producing bioethanol. They are Fucoidan and Alginic Acid. Scientists have already discovered enzyme to break down Fucoidan and now they are currently looking for enzyme to break down alginic acid.
The researchers claim that in addition to producing bio fuel. The seaweed / algae farm will also serve a noble duty by cleaning the Sea of Japan. The seaweed would work to remove some of the excess nutrient salts that flow into the sea from the surrounding land masses
More recent news stated that UK Researchers are also digging this new possibility. Professor Mike Cowling, science and research manager at the Crown Estate, said: “Given Scotland’s rugged western coastline and relatively clean seas, it is sensible to examine the farming of seaweeds and sustainable harvesting of natural supplies as a source of energy.”
He said more research was needed to establish the practicalities but added that seaweed could play an “important role” in green energy.
Now What are The Advantages of Seaweed If Compared to Other Bio Fuel Products such as Corn, Sugar Cane, and Palm Oil?
* Seaweed doesn’t need soil and fresh water as other agricultural biofuel producer crops desperately do. Many criticize that the cultivation of massive agricultural crops to produce bio fuel require very large acres of land, that makes it inefficient and potentially harm the environment.
* Food price will rise as the effect of more land is taken away to produce biofuel.
* Algae / Seaweed grows 10 times faster than sugar cane. It is the fastest growing crop.
* According to researchers at the Center for Biorefining of the University of Minnesota, they estimate that Algae / Seaweed produce 5000 gallons of bio fuel per acre. As comparisons, corn yields 18 gallons, soybeans produce 48 gallons and palm trees yield 635 gallons per acre.