Salt lake research weekly: Biofuel for Iran

The paper I selected is not a breakthrough or provocative hypothesis. In spite of relatively high impact factor of journal I should say that the paper is rather basic. One might expect from the title (Algae as a sustainable energy source for biofuel production in Iran: A case study) some estimates of production potential based on calculations, data on algae maximal yields, coefficients of the conversion of biomass to biofuel and other quantitative data. Not at all!

Biofuel production in Iran

Authors enumerate several Iranian salt lakes which might be used to grow algae to produce biofuel. They also briefly review the process of biodiesel production from algae oil and state (without supportive calculations) that there is a considerable potential for the utilization of algae for the production of biodiesel in Iran.

Algae as a sustainable energy source for biofuel production in Iran

What is nice about this paper that I selected it to be included into “salt lake research weekly”?

This is Iranian paper. We are not very often considering Iran in our scientific map while according to Web of Science the scientific output of this country grows very fast.

And this is Iranian paper about biofuel. Iran with the 97% of energy consumption originated from oil and gas consider biofuel as an energy source. I think that we are close to the critical point for renewable energy. Of course excavated carbon still dominates the energy world. But various research projects all over the world focused on different substitutes of oil and gas (from corn, soya or alga to lake sediments) promises that the cost of mass production of alternative fuel soon will decline enough to compete with traditional energy sources.


On the other hand what is not so nice about this paper? The paper considers Iranian salt lakes as natural reactors for biofuel production. When people think about freshwater lakes very often they associate them with clean drinking water, fishing and recreation or some other uses somehow connected with ecosystem. While salt lakes (especially hypersaline) very often is considered as chemical factories which can be used to produce various salts. Lake as bioreactor is already not chemical but biochemical factory. Still “factory” is something different from “ecosystem”. I am not sure that such technocratic view can be considered as sustainable approach.

What is important is that salt lakes indeed might be the habitat where algae and microbial species with unique adaptations and genotypes evolved. But to ensure that this biodiversity is available for our biotechnological sustainable future we must consider salt lakes as complex ecosystems not as chemical factories.
Najafi, G., Ghobadian, B., & Yusaf, T. (2011). Algae as a sustainable energy source for biofuel production in Iran: A case study Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 15 (8), 3870-3876 DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2011.07.010

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