The Virginia Institute of Marine Science and The College of William and Mary have formed a collaborative research initiative to investigate a promising new technology to produce biofuel from the algae growing naturally in rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
The enterprise, called ChAP—the Chesapeake Algae Project—is an integrated research approach to algae-based energy production and environmental remediation. It includes a number of corporate partners, notably StatoilHydro, a Norwegian energy company.
The William & Mary/VIMS group is investigating a process that not only is environmentally sustainable, but if used on a large scale, can help to reverse a number of environmental problems such as excess nutrient enrichment that produces “dead zones” in Chesapeake Bay and other waters.
ChAP differs from other algal biofuel initiatives in two ways. Most current algae studies focus on one high-yield species or strain of algae, but Manos explained that using a polyculture approach makes the algae less susceptible to disease and generally more robust. One of the goals of ChAP will be to develop processes to maximize the effective energy yield from a harvest that varies in oil content. The other difference is that the process is designed to work without competing with either fresh-water supplies or agricultural resources.
More information on ChAP
ChAP: Biofuel from Aquatic Algae by Joseph McClain for Ideation magazine (September 1, 2009)
W&M Receives $500k for Biofuel Study by Joseph McClain (September 14, 2010)
Algae Initiative Aims to Produce Fuel While Helping the Environment by Joseph McClain (September 30, 2009)
The Algal-biofuel Project: Wintertime Research at VIMS (March 25, 2010)
Update: Chesapeake Algae Project (May 21, 2010 - PDF)
'A 40-foot Hole in the Water' by Joseph McClain (July 27, 2010)
Update: Chesapeake Algae Project (October 29, 2010 - PDF)
To Harness the Wild Algae by Joseph McClain (November 30, 2010)
ChAP Scientists Comment on Benefits of Algal Biofuel by Joseph McClain (December 8, 2009)