The ugly swarms of algae that plague Chile's beaches may be an alternative energy blessing in disguise. Chilean economic development corporation (CORFO) announced an investment of 7 million US dollars towards a seaweed-based bio-ethanol project spearheaded by Chile and U.S. scientists.
The project's ambitious goal is to produce 165 million litres of bio-fuel — an equivalent to 5% of Chile's petrol consumption — in one year.
The project is led by Seattle-based Company Bio Architecture Lab (BAL), in collaboration with the Universidad de Los Lagos and Chilean oil company ENAP.
BAL was first introduced to Chile's algae-production potential in 2009 when CORFO offered to help fund development and research of algae-based bio-fuel. This project will greatly increase Chile's capacity for clean energy alternatives, said Alejandro Buschmann of the Universidad de Los Lagos.
Seaweed-based bio-fuel can be directly added to the gasoline used in cars without motor modification. Unlike with sugar or corn-based ethanol, seaweed is cheaper to produce and much less is required to make biofuel, making it an ideal candidate for large-scale production.
Plans to install a small test plant in Puerto Montt are set for this year.
By Kamille Go (firstname.lastname@example.org)