Muscat: Oman has a great potential to provide algae for synthesis of biofuel, observers in the field of biology have stated.
The Sultanate, with its wadis and seas, is an excellent source of algae that can be cultivated for lipids or fats from which biofuel can then be derived.
Mohamed Gomaa, a PhD student from the biology department of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), said the Sultanate was an ideal place as it was home to wadis where species of algae suitable for biofuel extraction grew.
The student further said that he had success in extracting biofuel from algae but that he could not disclose the details of his study as it was against the university’s rules. He added that the algae grow in wadis when it rains.
“When it rains, it washes the nutrients down and they gather. This helps the algae grow. One has to recognise which species of green and blue algae one can use for the purpose,” he remarked.
“Wadi Shab and Wadi Al Khud are places where one can find the correct kind of algae. The trick is to separate the suitable species, cultivate them, and gather enough lipids to make biofuel,” he further noted. He, however, said researchers the world over were a long way from producing biofuel from algae on an industrial scale.
Michel Clareboudt, a marine biologist at SQU who specialises in algae, said the seas surrounding Oman were also a good place to find algae for biofuel distillation. He said the trick was to find the suitable species of algae off the coast of the Sultanate.
The marine biologist added that making biofuel from algae was a lengthy process. “To collect algae from the wadis and the seas in Oman is a good idea but one has to collect the best algae for the purpose. The algae have to be then taken to a research facility to be cultivated. Then, we add nutrients, mainly fertilisers. When you get enough biomass, you can use the lipids in them to generate biofuel,” Clareboudt said.
He, however, clarified that the algae blooming off the coast of Oman right now were not suitable. “Not an option yet,” he asserted. In fact, besides not being able to produce biofuel from algae on an industrial scale, the feasibility of biofuel in the near future was called into question by experts.
Clareboudt said the process of extracting biofuel from algae was very expensive, adding that it would be a while before it could be considered a realistic option.
“It can’t be a considered an alternative to oil as it stands because the process is very costly. If the price of oil was to shoot up to over $100 a barrel, then one can think of biofuel as an option, as it would be cheaper,” he added.
As oil is a finite resource and fossil fuels are likely to be exhausted sometime in the future, biofuel is considered a long-term option by many observers.