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Seaweed used for ethanol production. (Photo: Central Salt and Marine Chemical Research Institute/FIS)

Seaweed production to soar for bio-fuel manufacturing

Click on the flag for more information about India INDIA
Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 15:30 (GMT + 9)

The Central Salt and Marine Chemical Research Institute (CSMCRI) is about to boost off-shore production of seaweed to fortify ethanol production.

Ethanol is a bio-fuel mixed with petrol to create a relatively sustainable alternative to traditional gasoline to lower emission levels. 

The project is a joint collaboration between the Council of Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Ministry of New Renewable Energy (MNRE) and is expected to strongly propel India’s efforts toward producing ethanol from sources other than sugarcane and other cash crops. Sourcing millions of tonnes of ethanol from non-cash crops to run cars has been a major challenge for India and has repeatedly raised concerns over the country’s food security.

CSMCRI Director Dr Pushpito Ghosh said the team is planning to drive up the cultivation of ethanol-producing red algae called Kappahycus alvarezi. Its production will take place in a few hectares of sea spanning some 5 to 10 km and will use more than 1,000 bamboo rafts, reports The Economic Times.

The institute has already been able to cultivate seaweed in 2-3 km of sea on the bamboo rafts -- without the need to employ any pesticides. The practice also generates jobs.

"The sea venture shall be advantageous in two ways. Firstly, the sap derived from seaweed will help raise the nation's sugarcane yield by 10 to 30 per cent; secondly, the seaweed bio-mass will be a source for ethanol," Ghosh said. 

"On filtering fresh seaweed crush we get sap, which is a bio-fertiliser. The residue solid contains polysaccharides, which is then converted into sugar and fermented to produce ethanol," Ghosh clarified about the process of obtaining ethanol from seaweed. 

CSMCRI has set 2012 as its deadline for making 10 per cent ethanol blend with petrol mandatory, according to industry sources. 

“Efforts are underway to optimise the technology to scale up the extraction of ethanol from seaweed bio-mass to up to 10 l level,” Ghosh said about making the ethanol more commercially viable, The Hindu reports.

CSMCRI recently submitted applications for Indian patent and PCT (multi-country patent) for the process of integral ethanol production from seaweed.

Thus far, CSMCRI has patents for an integrated method of production of carrageenan and liquid fertiliser from seaweed in the US, Europe, China, Indonesia and India. 

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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