For his University of Victoria mechanical engineering master's degree

Seaweed viable for biofuels in B.C., says UVic scientist

Seaweed – it’s great for sushi, and perhaps even better for biofuels.

Seaweed – it’s great for sushi, and perhaps even better for biofuels.

A study by a University of Victoria mechanical engineering student has shown that large-scale seaweed farms could make environmental sense in B.C. in terms of producing biofuels.

Aaron Philippsen, a 27-year-old Saanich resident, produced a study for his master’s thesis that shows B.C. has the coastline capacity to produce enough seaweed-based ethanol to replace what’s being imported into the province. And on the face of it, that ethanol production would produce less greenhouse gases than conventional ethanol derived from corn or wheat.

“With seaweed, you don’t need irrigation, you don’t need farmland. These are the main drawbacks to current biofuels,” Philippsen said. “We found seaweed ethanol is twice as effective in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Philippsen’s work estimated B.C.’s near-shore coastline could yield 1.3 billion litres of ethanol, where B.C. consumes about 240 million litres of ethanol, typically blended with gasoline. Seaweed-based animal feedstock could also offset costs for large-scale seaweed ethanol production.

“It looks like there’s potential to reduce the amount of ethanol imported into B.C. through farming on the coast,” he said. “Here it could make a significant difference. Globally, it won’t replace gas.”

The study examined the “energy return” and carbon output for seaweed versus conventional biofuels in terms of equipment, harvesting, processing, transportation fuel and electrical consumption. The biggest factor behind why seaweed is less of a carbon emitter than corn or wheat is the use of fertilizers.

“Growing seaweed doesn’t require fertilizer,” he said, although it does require large rafts in the ocean, which would need to co-exist with fishing, boating and other aquaculture.

Slightly more ethanol can be squeezed from corn than seaweed, and large-scale seaweed production needs a renewable energy process for drying, otherwise it’s unlikely to be cost effective or have a large advantage in terms of carbon output.

“Seaweed is big and heavy and has a lot of water to deal with,” he said. “That means you have to use solar thermal (greenhouses) or geothermal to do the drying. Part of the next step is to look at the cost of thermal drying in our climate.”



Just Posted

BC business offers ‘clean start’ for people with employment barriers

CleanStart BC is looks to expand its Victoria staff

New roadside testing device can’t identify drug impairment says Vancouver lawyer

Lawyer says similar devices vulnerable to court challenge, testing for drugs different to alcohol

Greater Victoria residents among the most credit-worthy Canadians

Yet debt levels continue to rise as Canadians owe $178 for every $100 earned

Victoria Police host Faith-Based Safety Forum in light of recent religious attacks

More than 35 faith-based leaders voice concerns, air questions

Kelowna toddler suffers cracked skull after fall from balcony

Neighbour who found the two-year-old boy said he has a bump the size of a golf ball on his head

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Pipeline protester chimes in on Justin Trudeau’s B.C. fundraising speech

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion

Baby boom seniors putting pressure on B.C. long-term care: report

B.C. leads Canada in growth of dementia, dependence on care

UPDATED: B.C. man says he’ll take People’s Party lawsuit as far as he can

Federal judge shut down Satinder Dhillon’s ‘nonsensical’ motion to bar use of PPC name in byelection

Canada stripping citizenship from Chinese man over alleged marriage fraud

The move comes amid severely strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing

Most Read