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New Process Converts Algae to Crude Oil in Less Than An Hour

Science & Tech  (tags: science, scientists, oil, algae, concept, research, technology, sustainability )

- 1566 days ago -
It typically takes about 65 million years to convert plant material into crude oil - but now a new process has dramatically reduced the amount of time necessary and can get the job done in about an hour.

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Michael O (176)
Sunday March 9, 2014, 2:09 pm
By Lisa Winter

This is accomplished at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), which is run by the Department of Energy. The results were published in Algal Research.

The process begins with a slurry of algae and water. It looks a lot like pea soup and has a similar consistency as well. The slurry is dumped into the reactor which exposes it to high levels of heat, reaching up to 662 degrees F (350 degrees C) and pressure up to 3000 PSI. These parameters are used in order to simulate conditions of being beneath the Earth’s surface for millions of years. Less than an hour later, the algae has been completely changed into a dark mixture of crude oil, water, and byproducts that can be recycled back into the manufacturing process.

Once the crude oil has been isolated, the team can use traditional refining techniques to make gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The byproducts are mostly potassium and nitrogen, which are turned back to the earliest parts of the process by feeding more algae.

Algae has been the focus of a source for biofuel for a long time, but the success from PNNL comes from their ability to streamline the operation and use wet algae, instead of incurring the expense of having to dry the algae first. Drying algae is expensive and time consuming, so eliminating that step is one of the biggest marks of success of this technique. Additionally, creating useful byproducts of water and fertilizer allows the team to recycle as much material as possible, which both minimizes waste and reduces costs of materials on the front end.

While this process certainly streamlines the traditional process of having to drill for oil in the ground, it is more expensive and currently less efficient than regular methods. This isn’t too surprising, given that most new technologies begin the same way. In order to try to cut costs, this technique has been licensed out to a biofuel company named Genifuel Corporation in the hopes that they will build a plant to make the biocrude on a much larger scale.

David C (25)
Sunday March 9, 2014, 3:33 pm
Oh, one more "new" process [trumpeted forth to try to sustain the oil industry] ! Must be a few dozen of them already, in only a couple of years (or is it just one press-release rerereregurgitated?) .

Questionable if such a process could ever become feasible. Certain, however, that it would remain "more expensive and ..less efficient " UNLESS we had "plenty of energy too cheap to meter" to pump into the process. But wait :no, even then it would remain IDIOCY (writ large). For if we had "plenty of energy too cheap to meter" who would need oil any more (and crude at that)?

David C (25)
Sunday March 9, 2014, 3:41 pm
PS: truly IDIOTIC idea to make (crude) oil from algae, as it is of course much easier and cheaper produced from palstic bags (as reported 02/014): Could Cars Soon Run on PLASTIC BAGS? Scientists Convert Carriers Into Diesel and Natural Gas

Big applause for our "$cientists" and presstitutes, ever diligently bu$y $aving ....

David C (129)
Sunday March 9, 2014, 3:43 pm
Just two questions....
1. since it is still described as oil what is the carbon output from the making and using ????

2. how much energy is going into making this change from algae to crude oil???? Is it worth it or is it another example of more energy going in than coming out????

How about society just figure out how to get off petrol/oil energy....

Carol P (46)
Sunday March 9, 2014, 4:45 pm
It sickens me that anyone is looking for new ways to create fossil fuels, when we already know that they are causing the climate change that will create cataclysmic upheavals on our planet.

Maritza D (0)
Monday March 10, 2014, 4:48 am
Sounds like another way to continue earth destruction.

Past Member (0)
Monday March 10, 2014, 4:58 am
Noted, ty.

Past Member (0)
Monday March 10, 2014, 5:14 am
It's not an excuse to waste our natural resources or to keep exploiting our homeland

Shailja Mukhtyar (90)
Monday March 10, 2014, 5:47 am
wow!! I think its wonderful, environmental, renewable energy. .... what cost?? growing algea in a bottle?? Only cost is purifying product... same as cleaning crude from the earth w/o the digging!! Grow algea on the Nitrogen rich waste from the process!!

. (0)
Monday March 10, 2014, 5:51 am

Past Member (0)
Monday March 10, 2014, 5:58 am
noted, thanks

Tanya W (65)
Monday March 10, 2014, 6:04 am
Thanks Michael. Noted.

Past Member (0)
Monday March 10, 2014, 6:08 am
TY, Michael. noted

Robert O (12)
Monday March 10, 2014, 7:44 am
Thanks Michael.

Christina Carlson (17)
Monday March 10, 2014, 8:24 am
It's a very interesting idea and surely this development can lead to even more environmentally sound discoveries going forward. Despite negative impact of burning fossil fuels, not drilling it out of ecologically and politically sensitive areas would still be an improvement on where we are at.

Angela J (61)
Monday March 10, 2014, 11:10 am

Past Member (0)
Monday March 10, 2014, 2:38 pm
IBM Solar Collector Magnifies Sun By 2000X – These Could Provide Power To The Entire Planet

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Monday March 10, 2014, 8:55 pm
Always interesting to see different alternatives.

Julie W (32)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 1:32 am
This sounds like a very wasteful process, so I can't quite see the point.

Frances Darcy (133)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 3:37 am

Scott haakon (4)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 3:41 pm
Well it is in a technological infancy. But gas turbines are not to picky.

Nimue Michelle Pendragon Gaze (339)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 8:42 pm
Still oil, innit? Oh yeah.

Nimue Michelle Pendragon Gaze (339)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 8:44 pm
I didn't mean that in a good way.

Melania Padilla (122)
Tuesday March 18, 2014, 9:25 am
Algae.. Love it! Thanks :)
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