National Research Council Canada-NRC

National Research Council Canada-NRC

June 01, 2011 09:00 ET

Algal Biofuel Research Draws Attention From Governor General

Governor General tours NRC research facility in Nova Scotia

KETCH HARBOUR, NOVA SCOTIA--(Marketwire - June 1, 2011) - His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, will observe how Canadian researchers in Nova Scotia are discovering alternative ways to produce renewable energy, while reducing Canada's carbon footprint.

For the past 50 years, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has been growing algae in sea water at the Marine Research Station in Nova Scotia. Researchers there are now examining the potential for algae to become a renewable source of energy that benefits Canada's environment and economy.

During the tour of the Marine Research Station, His Excellency will take a first-hand look at innovative research dedicated to growing, processing and testing microscopic algae for use as biofuel.

Research under the National Bioproducts Program has demonstrated that certain strains of algae can produce oil yields that are many times greater than traditional agricultural crops like wheat and corn. This oil can then be refined to produce renewable biofuel. Algae require no arable land to grow and therefore do not compete with Canadian food production. What's more, algae need large amounts of carbon dioxide. This gives biofuel from algae a two-fold advantage over fossil fuels: not only is algae a renewable source of energy, but production of algal biofuel may also be used to recycle greenhouse gases from industrial sources.

His Excellency will observe algae growing in photo-bioreactors called "Biofences" and in NRC-designed "Brite-Boxes". The oil-rich algae harvest solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into organic carbon in the form of vegetable oils, which can eventually be processed and converted into fuel products like biodiesel or bio-jet fuels. Clearly, algae have huge commercial potential, if researchers can determine a cost-effective way to produce fuel from this abundant marine resource.

"The need for biofuels to replace fossil fuels is well recognized," said NRC algae researcher Dr. Stephen O'Leary. "Biofuels research and development in Canada and abroad is driven by environmental concerns and the need for energy security."

The potential of an algal production industry has drawn international attention. In June 2011, the 4th Congress of the International Society for Applied Phycology will draw world experts on algal production to Halifax to explore potential commercial applications. These will include carbon capture; biofuel production; human and animal health; cosmeceutical and nutraceutical applications. The Congress will be co-chaired by Dr. O'Leary, who leads one of the marine algae projects under the National Bioproducts Program.

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