At the current rate of consumption, fossil oil reserves will be depleted in less than 50 years. Many researchers around the world have thought for years about what to do "after oil" and have tried to find alternatives that are greener, less polluting during extraction, and more sustainable. Agro-fuels are very controversial in terms of ecological impact, especially their effect on farm commodity prices. After the first 2 generations of biofuels, for many years, research has turned towards "algo-fuels,” the 3rd generation in biofuels, which naturally reproduces the creation of fossil fuel in a few days, thanks to the photosynthesis of microalgae. The concern from the first tests was that the process would be just too expensive. Bio Fuel System, a Spanish company, founded after five years of research with the Universities of Alicante and Valencia, has developed the first “accelerated energy conversion process."
- Find a lasting solution for oil substitution which can be developed at a large scale.
- Absorb the C02 emitted by industries (over 30% of CO2 emissions) to limit global warming and use this waste as new raw material.
The production process of Bio Fuel Systems’s "blue oil":
- Selection of strains of cyanobacteria and phytoplankton in the vicinity of production sites (no negative effect on biodiversity).
- Implementation as close as possible to plants emitting large amounts of CO2 from vertical tubes of 8m high where micro-algae multiplies due to CO2 and photosynthesis. Each day the amount doubles. Every day, half of the tubes are removed and centrifuged. The next day the tubes become full again.
- The centrifuged paste contains 2-3% of nutrients (omega 3 or 6) and 97% biomass, which is transformed into oil.
- The sale of nutrients allows for profitable operations (1 ton of omega-3 is valued at 56,000 Euros on the market)
- 1 hectare of farmland can absorb 12,000 tons of C02 per year and provides ongoing annual production of 5,500 barrels of oil.
- 2.2 tons of CO2 are required to produce a barrel of “blue oil” of which 1.2 tons of C02 is emitted indirectly (direct emissions are put back into the production process) => 940 kg of C02 are thus neutralized in each barrel produced.
The first pilot production farm (40 ha to run) just opened in January 2011 in Alicante, alongside the Cemex cement plant, third in the world for cement production.
Key Success Factor(s)
- Principles of industrial ecology: live alongside the most polluting industries and transform their "CO2" waste into energy resources.
- A vertical culture for a maximum yield per hectare
- Among 30,000 species, 30 species of phytoplankton which are richest in lipids have been found (Yielding 30 times higher than rapeseed or sunflower). 22 patents filed over the five years of research.
- Marketing of the production residues (omega 3, activated carbon plant) to lower the selling price of blue oil. Use of some oil to produce energy needed for production.
- The oil does not require special adaptation of existing engines, and posses the same chemical properties for polymerization.
Contribution to company performance
- 2 other sites are already under construction in Madeira and Venice. 6-8 production units are planned over the next 3 years. 50 plants planned by 2020.
- The facilities are amortized over 4 years.
- Cemex and BFS obtained the "Sustainable Innovation Award" in November 2009 for the quality of their partnership and the interests of technological breakthrough.
Social and / or environmental benefits
- The most water-efficient fuel: 0.1 L of water needed for 1L of oil vs 1000L for 1L of bioethanol
- No pressure on farmland or on food commodities
- Oil without sulfur or heavy metals thus much cleaner combustion and refining.
To know more
This work by Réseau Alliances – World Forum Lille is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.