Second-generation biofuel feedstocks are currently grown in land-based systems that use valuable resources like water, electricity and fertilizer. This study investigates the potential of near-shore marine (ocean) seawater filtration as a source of planktonic biomass for biofuel production. Mixed marine organisms in the size range of 20µm to 500µm were isolated from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) seawater filtration system during weekly backwash events between the months of April and August, 2011. The quantity of organic material produced was determined by sample combustion and calculation of ash-free dry weights. Qualitative investigation required density gradient separation with the heavy liquid sodium metatungstate followed by direct transesterification and gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (GC-MS) of the fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) produced. A maximum of 0.083g/L of dried organic material was produced in a single backwash event and a study average of 0.036g/L was calculated. This equates to an average weekly value of 7,674.75g of dried organic material produced from the filtration of approximately 24,417,792 liters of seawater. Temporal variations were limited. Organic quantities decreased over the course of the study. Bio-fouling effects from mussel overgrowth inexplicably increased production values when compared to un-fouled seawater supply lines. FAMEs (biodiesel) averaged 0.004% of the dried organic material with 0.36ml of biodiesel produced per week, on average. C16:0 and C22:6n3 fatty acids comprised the majority of the fatty acids in the samples. Saturated fatty acids made up 30.71% to 44.09% and unsaturated forms comprised 55.90% to 66.32% of the total chemical composition. Both quantities and qualities of organics and FAMEs were unrealistic for use as biodiesel but sample size limitations, system design, geographic and temporal factors may have impacted study results.
- The potential of coastal marine filtration as a feedstock source for biodiesel
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by Christoph Pierre