Duplicating Nature's Million-Year Process of Creating Crude Oil Down to Minutes in the Lab

#Science

Wed, Dec 18th, 2013 21:00 by capnasty NEWS

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory reports that it was able to create a continuous chemical process that turns harvested algae -- "a verdant green paste with the consistency of pea soup" -- into crude oil and other useful by products, in just less than an hour.

The research by engineers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was reported recently in the journal Algal Research. A biofuels company, Utah-based Genifuel Corp., has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology.

In the PNNL process, a slurry of wet algae is pumped into the front end of a chemical reactor. Once the system is up and running, out comes crude oil in less than an hour, along with water and a byproduct stream of material containing phosphorus that can be recycled to grow more algae.

With additional conventional refining, the crude algae oil is converted into aviation fuel, gasoline or diesel fuel. And the waste water is processed further, yielding burnable gas and substances like potassium and nitrogen, which, along with the cleansed water, can also be recycled to grow more algae.

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