Pakistan can use its 27million acre of saline lands to cultivate algae, which is the best alternative feedstock to biofuel production, says a researcher at the Mie University of Japan.

Algae is a diverse group of simple plant like organisms, growing in fresh water and sea water, and a specific group of algae are capable of producing oil more than 30 times than other crops, Dr Ehsan Ali told a seminar here on Thursday. “The unprecedented challenges to the coming generations, from utter depletion of fossil fuel reserves to the drastic climatic changes threatening the life on our earth altogether, requires innovative thinking both on social and scientific fronts,” he told the gathering.

The role of biofuel research would be of key importance to avoid the consequences of fuel and environmental crisis in the coming future, he said and added that there were established procedures to produce biodiesel, bioethanol and biogas from different feedstock, the main problem was to make the biofuel production ‘cost effective and more environment friendly’ while maintaining universal standards. Dr Ali said some organizations were fully engaged to achieve biofuel production targets by cultivating Jatropha and Castor Oil, etc, but some revolutionary benefits in addition to biodiesel/biofuel production could be achieved through some alternative feedstock like Algae. He said Pakistan had about 27 million acre of saline lands without any remarkable output that could prove a cheaper medium to produce biofuel. Dr Ali said since Algae needs salts, carbon dioxide and sunlight to grow and produce oil, it will intake the salts from saline lands reducing its salt concentration or eradicating salinity while ground saline water of some saline lands can be used to irrigate algae.

He said some countries had already started projects on saline algae farming to utilize their barren lands for abundant biofuel production. Usually Algae contains about 40 percent of oil and 60 percent residual bio-matter, hence after extracting 40 percent of oil which can be used for biodiesel production, the left over 60 percent bio-matter can be used for animal feed, bioethanol production, and some other purposes, he told the gathering.

He said cultivation of algae would also be helpful for the sequestration of carbon dioxide from air and salts from our saline lands, cleaning our environment along with a package of enough carbon credits to Pakistan. He said a lot of biofuel institutes and research centers have been established in all developed and some developing countries to study the possibilities that can be used to produce biofuel in a more productive and highly sustainable manner.

He said Pakistan is depending on fossil fuel and needs to establish a ‘Biofuel Research Center’ where we can focus to develop biofuel industry in the country using advanced technologies. He said Pakistan Technology Board, an organisation of Ministry of Science and Technology responsible to identify and promote key technologies in Pakistan, has already taken some initiative to promote innovative research approaches towards biofuel production.