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Can Algal biofuels power the mining boom?

Gilmore, Michael (2013) Can Algal biofuels power the mining boom? Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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An ever-increasing demand for the planet's finite energy resources is leading us to a pivotal point. Firstly, we are faced with issue of resource depletion, leading to price volatility and energy security issues. Secondly and perhaps more importantly is anthropogenic climate change induced by the release of millions of years' worth of bound carbon.

A nation such as Australia, with vast expanses of land an energy intensive economy is particularly exposed to fluctuations in energy price and availability. The current mining boom, especially in Western Australia, highlights this problem, with a heavy reliance on transport fuels to extract, refine and transport minerals across the globe. Interestingly, in Western Australia, those mineral resource-rich regions also provide some of the best locations (climatic conditions) for establishing an algal biofuel industry. These third generation biofuels hold the potential to provide for transport needs into the future without further straining the world's food supply and can actively reduce carbon dioxide by reducing fossil fuel consumption and binding carbon. However they have never been produced on a commercial scale. This paper reviews the current status of the algal biofuel industry in western Australia. If the correct conditions are present, with a willing local market and an industry able to supply a reliable and sustainable fuel, can the transition from the laboratory to commercial success be made? An analysis of the current and future fuel demand from iron ore mining is undertaken and a number of locations identified as being suitable sites for development. It is reasoned that using current theoretical levels of productivity and overcoming issues of scale and economics, it would be possible to contribute a significant proportion of fuel demand from algal biofuels produced in the local environment.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Information Technology
Supervisor(s): Moheimani, Navid
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