Assessing Algae's Potential

By Rona Johnson
This month's magazine is mainly about algae and its potential use as a biomass feedstock. There is no doubt that algae-based fuels could significantly reduce carbon emissions. However, despite the many research efforts and scientific breakthroughs that occur every day in the algae space, there is still disagreement over if and when it will be possible to cost effectively produce it commercially.

At Biomass Magazine we are constantly trying to get a handle on the potential for algal biomass by talking to companies that are working on commercializing algae production, scientists in the field and associations dedicated algae's commercial success.

In this issue we look at some of the companies and experts researching algae's potential and the different methods that are being used to produce algae (see "Biofuels or Bust" on page 32). One of the big debates occurring in the industry is which method is more economic to produce algae on a commercial scale open ponds, closed bioreactors or a combination of both (see "Open Ponds Versus Closed Bioreactors" on page 38). The answer to that question may not be apparent until commercialization is a reality, but it's always good to hear what the experts have to say. This issue also features a contribution from Todd Taylor, an attorney with Fredrikson & Byron, who writes about major corporations and their interest in algae (see "Great Green Hope: The Corporate Love Affair With Algae" on page 54). Taylor's point is that although algae commercial production may be 10 years away and there are still some production challenges involved, it probably shouldn't be ignored when so many of the world's largest companies are investing heavily in it.

If you are looking for in-depth information about algae, I suggest that you continue to read our magazine, but also to contact organizations such as the Algal Biomass Organization and the European Algae Biomass Association. Whereas we cover all types of biomass, these organizations concentrate all of their efforts on algae.

Although algae is this month's theme, this issue also provides information about the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (see "BCAP Rule Revision" on page 44) as the proposed rule was released in February. We tried to find out which parts of the program were in dispute and it seems that the list of eligible woody biomass and how to measure moisture content are just two issues being discussed. At press time, it still wasn't clear what changes will be made in the program, and we probably won't know until after the USDA goes through all of the comments, which probably won't happen until the end of April or the beginning of May. We'll keep checking in with the USDA to see if there is anything noteworthy between now and the release of the final rule.