Kelp to serve as cheaper, greener biofuel for energy needs, finds research

Industry Insights

In remote coastal Alaska, kelp is plentiful that could be a cheap, green energy source. Many remote communities in the region depend on diesel generators for energy because they are not linked to the electrical grid. But diesel turns out to expensive as it is procured from outside.

In a bid for a cheaper and sustainable fuel, a research team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory turned to two abundant marine resources in the state: fish and kelp processing waste.

The research team found that if existing fish processing plants are used, the fish and kelp harvest of the state could be transformed into diesel-like fuel that is carbon free. This waste-to-energy fuel could be used for powering generators of fishing boats. The research undertaken by the team sponsored by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy highlighted in a recently published report.

In Alaska, diesel is expensive, especially in the winter season. In fact, diesel is used to keep heater going. The objective was to see if existing waste could be turned in a way to reduce the financial burden in remote, small, and disadvantaged areas of the region.

Meanwhile, kelp finds extensive use as a fuel. From food to packaging and thickeners for ice cream, shampoo, and toothpaste. In the medicine sector, kelp is used to treat cancer, asthma, and diabetes. Interestingly, kelp harvesting is a worldwide industry, in particular in China. Still, in the U.S., large-scale kelp production is in the infancy and is a struggle to compete globally because of profitability challenges, lack of effective supply chains and issues related to consistent markets for food and other products.

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