Skip to comments.Algae to crude oil: Million-year natural process takes minutes in the lab
Posted on 12/20/2013 9:24:42 AM PST by logi_cal869
Engineers have created a continuous chemical process that produces useful crude oil minutes after they pour in harvested algae a verdant green paste with the consistency of pea soup.(snip)
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.(snip)
The recent work is part of DOE's National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels & Bioproducts, or NAABB. This project was funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Both PNNL and Genifuel have been partners in the NAABB program.
(Excerpt) Read more at pnnl.gov ...
Plus, a couple of ironies: Government research investment truly seems to have paid off, developing a potential process to free us from the Mideast and, secondly, this does nothing to reduce our so-called 'carbon footprint' (its product is hydrocarbons, regardless its source).
Another irony: They seem to have set out in 2009 to develop an 'algae-to-natural gas' process and discovered 'algae-to-oil' as an unexpected byproduct.
If they can get the cost down, refineries can go full cycle on-site, water being the only real raw material (if I understand it correctly). "Byproducts" & "waste" yet to be determined. Hopefully this stuff has the energy of petroleum-based gasoline.
I'll leave the rest of the speculation to others here.
Rust Belt cities on the Great Lakes have access to a lot of fresh water.
Turning “pea soup” into oil sounds like a good use for pea soup. I wonder if they will have to exclude ham from the recipe?
algae — it’s green energy.
It’s better than burning corn and driving up the cost of livestock feed and tacos.
Now to produce enough algae to make it economically doable — that’s the question.
If not will kudzu work???
To make this feasible on any significant scale,,,,how big are the algae ponds going to have to be? What’s the growth/turnover rate of the algae?
“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.”
So in this process more potential energy from oil is produced than energy consumed?
Grow it on sewage.
I wonder what the EROEI on algae is.
What investment of man hours, raw material and energy has to be put into each barrel of oil from this method?
I could get my 13 year old to power the house with a stationary bike generator, but then I would have to feed him. Not worth it.
Well, is this cost-effective (or could it be made to be) with shale oil?
If not, then it stands little chance of replacing that source. No matter how “green” the biological source of petroleum may be, there is a cost-benefit ratio that has to be respected.
Even if it's break even or not-quite break even, it still might be worth doing.
It converts intermittent sunlight into a continuous oil stream.
If it disposes of an otherwise burdensome waste stream.
“So in this process more potential energy from oil is produced than energy consumed?”
I think if you add in the sunlight and CO2 the algae needs it will be a slight net loss, given entropy (TdeltaS).
I doubt they sieve algae from water directly, though you could.
This is an interesting way of turning solar energy into a usable fuel.
Tens of millions of acres of algae pools to produce significant amounts of oil, not likely to be competitive with drilled wells.
You don’t feed him now?
May as well salvage something from the food budget...
Thanks FO the post.
By th way, this wouldn have to be excepted.
While I am not suggesting truth in the global warming / carbon output scam, the algae to oil plans result if far less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
The end product is essentially the same, but to grow the algae, it removes CO2 to grow. So what is released is carbon that was already in the air, not captured underground.
This isn’t activism.
Algae to oil processes are essentially a solar energy process. Sunlight provides the energy the algae needs to grow and build its hydrocarbon chains. The processing is just "squeezing out" the chemical energy captured from the solar energy input.
Maybe this is proof that during the dinosaur age oil was created from huge amounts of algae that grew during that time were covered over and buried while other plant growth turned to coal.
Not to mention the smell.
The US Dept of Agriculture currently pays BILLIONS out via the Crop Reduction Program (CRP). This program pays farmers with land that could be farmed, to not farm.
I am of the opinion, that a significant reduction of our foreign oil dependence along with an improvement in the cash flows for farms could be achieved if the USDA would require the production of X numbers of gallons of algae in order to qualify for Y number of acres in the CRP program.
Further, tax breaks could be provided to ag co-ops that build algae collection and process to oil facilities that could then be shipped via trains to refineries.
Growing algae can be done in tanks, in ponds, etc. Farmers might even be able to process the algae into bio-diesel for their own farm equipment thus reducing their costs. The algae can then be sold to the co-op, the co-op collect and process into oil and the oil sold to refineries. In essence, boot strapping a whole ag industry that would be a whole lot more efficient that trying to turn food (corn) into fuel (ethanol).
This process uses 'wet algae'; that's the major difference. Using the 'reactor' is akin to cooking your chicken in an oven vs. a pressure-cooker; much greater efficiency. I believe Sapphire Energy is also using the 'wet' process, but that's not been revealed that I can find.
My 'geek' was stimulated by this research...fascinating.
This may explain Abiotic oil theories that have long been laughed at by enviromentalmidgets.
The problem with solar has always been storage. This seems like a good solution.
Of course the greenies will attempt to ban the technology.
Good. Now make several million gallons of it per day. Oh, and keep the price per gallon at $2.50 or less.
I considered that. But I respectfully disagree:
An Alternative to corn-to-ethanol processes & fringe electric/battery tech funded by MASSIVE government investment & bias (both resulting from its own ‘activism’) is, indeed, Activism.
IMHO. Am I wrong?
If it proves to be economically viable, the greenies will hate it and try to ban it.
If it’s a worthless sinkhole of resources, they’ll tout it as the way of the future and demand subsidies.
Good news everybody.
But I do have a few questions:
1. What are the resource requirements and energy inputs into growing the algae?
2. What are the resource requirements and energy inputs into reacting the algae into oil?
3. Does the energy output from burning the oil exceed the energy inputs into the total process?
4. Is the growth and reaction processes expandable and sustainable?
5. Are there any undesirable byproducts of the growth and reactions processes?
That is all.
Bump for later
Now I’m confused. You threw me with the ‘isn’t activism’ statement.
The forum is News/Activism.
If this isn’t at least news, please direct me to which forum applies in this case.
Not being an a$$; trying to understand and elaborating that I’ve thought this, and other posts, through.
“This may explain Abiotic oil theories that have long been laughed at by enviromentalmidgets.”
Man, the Enviros are going to be pi$$ed.....
It may be a very large amount of oil, but the way things are going, we will be eating the algae and walking to work.
So, the same process can probably be used with any carbon based material when mixed with a proportion amount of H2O under tremendous pressure and heat. And since it's just recycling carbon, there is no need for a carbon credit scheme.
As big as Mars, maybe?
look for PETA to start a campaign to prevent harm to algae.
My question is:
How much does it cost?
If its going to be cheaper per gallon, great. If its going to cost more per gallon, it is not worth doing.
It is going to have to be significantly cheaper per gallon to be worth investing in all the infrastructure that it would need.
maybe it does not take “millions and millions” of years to make crude oil “naturally” either.
This shows the Biotic production of oil, the same process that when trapped away from oxygen in ocean/lake sediment, produced the oil we harvest from drilling.
This is “bio-diesel” they’ve been putting in Navy ships?
Imagine algae on the endangered species list.
Probably very uneconomical.
Would be useful to produce fuels off earth though.
biotic is biological, grown.
abiotic is non-biological, not-grown.
If we anticipate a steady stream operation right at the refinery, the first question is; What sort of VOULUME, capacity, output is feasible with such a lash-up? It’s an interesting process, but if it only produces a few gallons of gasoline or jet fuel or whatever per day, what’s the excitement about?
Thermal Depolymerization Process oil has been around for a while. The process is designed to handle almost any waste product imaginable, including turkey offal, tires, plastic bottles, harbor-dredged muck, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, even oil-refinery residues. There are actually three product streams: a form of natural gas, varying grades of petroleum (depending on the feedstock being reduced), and various minerals, either as elemental metals or oxides. The substance goes into the reaction retort vessel as a watery slurry, and cooking time is a matter of only a few hours. Actually, the superheated steam under pressure (two to five atmospheres) is what does the conversion. There is a serious amount of heat that has to be applied to start the process, but once under way, the gaseous volatiles are enough fuel to keep the process going in a series of other retorts, in various stages of the cook-down. The other problem is keeping the process supplied with feedstock material, much like an incinerator that burns trash for power generation. The kinds and composition of the feedstock have to be carefully monitored, but this is a doable technique. It would work very well on a high-volume sewage processing facility, for example, with no need for drying down the residue.
In part, perhaps. But personally I believe Thomas Gold was right about the abiotic origins of most of the hydrocarbons we extract from the earth.
The guy in the video at the link is my BIL. Hubby is pretty proud of his little bro.