Sea Green Project Accelerates Algae for Aviation

Renewable aviation fuel was a hot topic during the recent Aviation and Environment Summit in Geneva. During the event, the Sustainable Use of Renewable Fuels (SURF) consortium was announced with the intention of accelerating algae for aviation fuel. SURF was developed to support Cranfield University’s Sea Green project that will harvest algae to produce jet fuel at commercial scale. SURF is comprised of Airbus, British Airways, Rolls-Royce, Finnair, Gatwick Airport, IATA, and Cranfield University.

Cranfield currently has a pilot facility on campus that is growing and processing algae for biofuels. However, the long-term the goal is for Sea Green to be an ocean based facility and producing commercial scale levels of bio-jet fuel within three years. According to a press release, Sea Green’s ocean based facility, “will be designed to use the expanse of the world’s near-shore waters to rapidly grow microalgae at a faster rate than any other initiative and capture CO2 from the atmosphere and seas at the same time”

Researchers argue that this is a more sustainable method of biofuel production because it does not compete with agricultural land, doesn’t require fresh water, doesn’t result in deforestation, and doesn’t damage the environment.

“Many biofuels compete with agricultural land and fresh water which results in the price of food being pushed up. This project and consortium aim to see how algae could benefit the aviation industry,” said Professor Feargal Brennan, Head of Cranfield University’s Department of Offshore, Process and Energy Engineering.

Brennan continued, “It will look at ways to grow and harvest naturally occurring species of algae in large volumes and to process these into fuel. Algae grows naturally in sea water and with over 70 percent of the surface of the earth being water, Cranfield’s Sea Green project is a logical and potentially high yield solution. Few replacement options to kerosene for fueling commercial aircraft have been identified but jet fuel produced from algae produced in this way, could be a major break-through.”

6 thoughts on “Sea Green Project Accelerates Algae for Aviation

  1. From pilot plant on a campus to commercial scale production within 3 years is an ambitious goal! I like the appraoch of going to near-shore waters but I don’t know if the expenses (e.g. erosion with salt water conditions) will fit the goal of economical viability for a low value product like fuel…

  2. Maybe you can also collect Algae from swimming pools if logistically feasible. Be careful of using ocean sources as it may be part of a food chain.

  3. I am glad that this idea does not involve agricultural land or fresh water because it would be obscene to fuel aircraft with food (or land/water that could be used to grow food).

    I remain concerned about the possible environmental impact of sea based algae farms and hope this issue receives careful scrutiny.

    I am also concerned that some may view this prospect as an excuse for business as usual – continued aviation expansion with consequent damage to the environment and energy reserves – when the prospective new fuel may never materialise or may be so expensive relative to present oil prices that growth will be quickly reversed with greater economic consequences than if it had never happened. Sustainability requires adjustment to new circumstances rather than expansion at all costs.

  4. Major University Admits Hard Science
    Problems Relating to Algae Have Been Solved

    Arizona State University Senior Vice President Rick Shangraw recenty said “…algae will “deliver soon” because…most of the hard science problems science problems regarding algae have been solved…Now…it’s largely an engineering problem.”

    The National Algae Association’s Engineering Consortium has resolved the engineering problems in its development of plans and specifications for a 100-acre build-out turnkey algae production system (on paper, not just in theory), and its financial team has developed CAPEX and OPEX financial models showing positive cash flow.

  5. Pingback: » Algae Biofuel: The Oil of the Future? | Biofriendly Blog

  6. Algae researchers should take heed of the coming inevitability of the elimination of transesterification. Transesterification yields glycerol byproduct and uses fossil-fuel-derived reagents. Whether or not you use the glycerol for co-generation, if you use transesterification a major process technology, then you will be losing out on the benefits of “interestification”. See TBK-Biodiesel for more information.

    TBK-Biodiesel deserves the same level of funding and attention that has been received by this project, as its technology will behoove the advent of sustainable biofuel produced from algae-oil! TBK is the way forward!

    TBK-Biodiesel is a mixture of FAEE (fatty-acid-ethyl-esters) and modified triglycerides. No glycerol byproduct, no fossil-derived reagents, and most importantly, better fuel properties resulting from its higher oxygen content.

    If you are interested in collaborating please contact me. We are looking to partner with ethyl acetate producers and biodiesel producers.

    Kind Regards,

    -Andrew