Skip to comments.From Algae to Oil In Just One Hour
Posted on 12/25/2013 3:51:31 AM PST by neverdem
Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are pioneering a process that produces oil from algae in just one hour. Wet algae goes in, heat and pressure is applied, and crude oil comes out. From the PNNL itself:
“It’s a bit like using a pressure cooker, only the pressures and temperatures we use are much higher,” said [Douglas Elliott, the laboratory fellow who led the PNNL team's research]. “In a sense, we are duplicating the process in the Earth that converted algae into oil over the course of millions of years. We’re just doing it much, much faster.”
The process can only handle 1.5 liters of algal slurry at a time, but researchers are confident that in can be scaled up. Plenty of other teams and companies are working on generating energy from algae, but this new process marks a significant step forward in the field for a few reasons. First, it can be run continuously, rather than batch-by-batch, making it easier to mass produce. Second, the algae input doesn’t need to be dried outan expensive processbut can go in as a wet slurry. The process also produces water and important nutrients necessary for growing algae which can then be reused.
Making our own oil from algae would be greatthe process is green, insofar as the carbon released by burning the resultant oil is offset by carbon used in the algae production process. And it’s sustainable, in that we can keep growing more algae to produce more oil. But, like every other green energy source, its future depends on whether or not it can be commercially produced at cost-effective levels. This method isn’t ‘there’ yet, but researchers are making impressive strides.
Note that the PNNL is operated by the Department of Energy. Reports like this one are a reminder that governments are best-served allocating money towards the research and development of nascent green technologies rather than by subsidizing them and trying to pick winners in the marketplace.
Algae has to grow and, though I’m no botonist or scientist, it would seem to me we could not keep up with demand for the oil.
Although the technology will be many years away from maturity, it’s just really a question of scaling up,the process until the demand can be met, even if it meant doing something like taking over the entire desert region of the country.
The process itself would cost more in energy than it could produce, but when you account for the cost to the country to deal with terrorism, and how that terrorism is ultimately being funded by the American oil consumer, it could be worth doing.
Algae grows quickly and cheaply. I question the millions of years though for nature.
The algae might grow the oil, but it is not a nuclear process. Being a chemical process, the amount of oil and other by-products that are produced will not be more than the sum total of what was used in the process.
It is an energy losing equation.
How much “fossil fuel” energy is expended trying to make this NEW energy source...
HA! what a bunch of B.S.
Another ethanol production scam.
$1.30 ethanol = $1.00 gasoline (15%-”e”). Net loss.
Continuous flow and elimination of dewatering are two HUGE breakthroughs. I’d like to see cost projections.
Sure. Algae grows well on manure. In Asia they use animal manure to grow algae for raising tilapia. Sludge from waste treatment plants should work fine.
While I will agree with this statement that governments are best-served allocating money towards the research and development of nascent green technologies rather than by subsidizing them and trying to pick winners in the marketplace I would say that the people are best-served if government stays out of the research and development completely and definitely stay away from trying to pick winners in the marketplace.
In my experience, government funds most research, and the type of research done by private enterprise is not the kind of basic research that leads to breakthroughs such as this. Universities, where most research takes place, all have federal funding for it. Most basic research does not lead to commercial products; it takes place purely for the purpose of advancing knowledge. Private companies don't invest in research unless they see a profit potential in it.
While reading this stuff I was thinking the same thing. Agricultural runoff has made a nearby lake green with algae. The watershed for this lake is one huge pasture filled with cow manure.
This is just one small 54 acre lake, I see the idea of getting it from the ocean being more cost efficient.
This is great. Anything that will lead to a decrease in the quantities of imported oil is wonderful!
I can picture algae refineries popping up near populated areas, taking the place of oil refineries.
For whoever thinks that algae (or other biofuels) cannot be cost-effective since they supposedly use more fuel than they produce—are you aware of how much energy is used to access and pull oil out of the ground, ship it to a refinery, convert it to gasoline and the other products made from it, and then distribute it? It uses a huge amount of energy to process oil. The description of the algae process suggests that a lower energy input will produce the same amount of usable product.
1. Algae spontaneously extract carbon dioxide from the air, which they convert into the proteins, lipids, and sugars that make up the composition of their bodies.
2. Algae use energy from the sun to fuel their growth processes.
Humans only need provide water and trace minerals; the algae do the rest. It is something like a garden—you expend a certain amount of energy planting and tending for the plants, but you can completely feed yourself from that garden because the energy yield is far more than the energy input.
“For whoever thinks that algae (or other biofuels) cannot be cost-effective since they supposedly use more fuel than they produce”
There is no “supposedly”. You, based on previous discussions we’ve had, know for a fact that every biofuel, with the possible exception of wood, takes more energy - in the form of the gasoline, oil, and diesel that you are taking a swipe at here - than they could possibly produce.
Oil can be and is produced profitably every day.
Not only are biofuel energy dreams net negative, but they are also financially net negative. There is no place for biofuel in any sane society.
Biofuels are powered by big government.
Snake oil, prolly...
“Humans only need provide water and trace minerals; the algae do the rest. It is something like a gardenyou expend a certain amount of energy planting and tending for the plants, but you can completely feed yourself from that garden because the energy yield is far more than the energy input.”
No. You would starve to death using such logic. You require two potatoes worth of energy to grow one potato.
Biofuel is a monument to a the success of conventionally-produced petroleum.