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.
I dont know if you have been paying attention lately but basic research has gotten a black eye. A study has shown that up to 60% of peer reviewed science articles in the best science journals were falsified.
This shows me that government being the major source of science funding has all but destroyed science.
Put the profit back in motive back in science and you will have put a major check in the balance to keep scientist honest. Falsify your science and you will never get another grant or job in science again.
When government decides what science will be funded it skews science. Global warming is the peak of this mountain but it shows exactly why government should not be funding science. Government is political and can not help but force whatever it touches in to the political realm.
What about IBM’s Watson Research Center? There are numerous other examples of privately funded pure science research largely for science’s sake, although a lot of commercial benefit does often result.
Whale oil: the green biofuel for the 21st century.
President Eisenhower warned about this in his farewell address.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present -- and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
Solar Powered production equipment! It’s here and it’s real.
OH, you mean just like the deep ocean floor. (Which is where oil really comes from)
You always hear of Eisenhower’s warnings about the military industrial complex but they leave the part you just quoted off. Interesting.
Good questions. Years ago, I remember reading about an awfully similar concept, called something like Thermal M???? Distillation. Supposedly, they could convert almost any organic material into oil, through heat and pressure. A company had built a test facility and planned plants near major generators of waste product like chicken processors, pulp mills, etc. Disappeared from the scene without a peep.
The process can only handle 1.5 liters of algal slurry at a time, but researchers are confident that in can be scaled up... it can be run continuously, rather than batch-by-batch, making it easier to mass produce... the algae input... can go in as a wet slurry. The process also produces water and important nutrients necessary for growing algae which can then be reused.Thanks neverdem.
I think James Woolsey was involved in that.
How much POWER is being used to create this other 'power'?
This is a different issue, and is also not quite the way you stated here. The issue is not falsification of results (which is outright fraud and illegal), but of irreproducibility of results (which is sloppy science). Also, this is not so much an issue of basic research, but of a different kind of research. Basic research reveals fundamental processes, such as the effect of changing temperature on the production of a specific enzyme within a specific cell type. This kind of research is highly reproducible; if I describe my work, and another scientist wants to use it as a basis for his work, his first step will be to reproduce my work. Basic research is very straightforward and reproducible.
Where the issue of non-reproducibility comes up most often is in large-scale clinical/observational studies. These studies rely on large sample sizes, because the systems being studied have a lot of background variability. In order to analyze the study, heavy-duty statistics are applied. Where I use statistics to show whether the effect I measured in experimental group A is really different than what I measured in control group B, very often in large-scale studies, statistics are used to determine whether there is an effect at all--not whether an observed effect is real, but if an effect even exists. That is a huge difference from basic research.
In numerical terms, that is the difference between my using statistics to validate a 500% difference between experimental and control groups, while the large scale studies use statistics to reveal a 1% difference between the two groups--a difference that is probably not even real.
There are other **major** problems with large-scale studies that depend on statistical analysis to determine if the study shows anything. This kind of research is a pet peeve of mine, and I could go on about it for a very long time. People engaged in this kind of research very often are not trained as scientists--they are MDs, usually--and do not understand basic biochemical mechanisms and over-estimate the power of statistics. I am actually glad that objections to this kind of "science" are getting some publicity--that kind of attention is *long* overdue. Large scale studies cannot be avoided, but they desperately need methodological reform.
The bottom line is that none of this has anything to do with the fact that government funds the majority of basic research. Given the nature of how science is funded, I only see that basic research would halt if government stopped funding, because it has no commercial application and is not funded by the private sector.
Oh good. And I suppose the heat and pressure used to turn the algae into oil comes from unicorn farts. this sound like another electric car-style scam. All ya gotta do is burn “-insert conventional fuel source here -” to creat limitless clean energy...
...as long as it's GREEN and fur the chilrun???
And then it dies and something Eats IT!
How will stealing all the algea impact the food chain?
They were done by Al Gore so they are VERY accurate!
That's takes care of the Congress problem; too!
Al Gore did the math!!
"Better to leave the green scum alone then, so it can clean up my carbon-footprint."
President Eisenhower was a bit of a prophet. Here he describes the Global Warming science fraud that has tainted politics the world over.
Anthropomorphic Global Warming science fraud was brought to us by government funded science. A do loop of money-science-politics-money that is destroying industry, capitalism and liberty.
How you gonna SCARE people into funding BASIC research?
Ya gotta have WARMING!!!
See what I mean?
Mono-nucleidic Growth in Projected Fossil Remnants ain't gonna garner NO grant money!
I am not a naysayer on principle, but I “is an injuneer” and there are hurdles for algae oil. I think those hurdles could be surmounted, but if so, it will NOT be from government involvement. It will be from private enterprise doing what private enterprise does best.
The worst hurdle: the water needed. Algae need water to live and those water molecules contribute atoms to the final product. The math has been done and America wouldn’t be able to come up with enough fresh water in its current state to make a dent in the oil situation. This could be solved if someone comes up with an algae that will grow in salt water, which can be had from the ocean. This is a bioengineering issue. In order to keep from sliming the oceans with the stuff, I’d want this algae to require something else in its environment that has to be manually added to the growing water and is not present in natural seawater.
Tain't no count lest the GUMMINT funds it!
Because, ya know, it’s GOD.
The space program is the only possible exception. There were a bunch of things that were claimed to be from the space program, but I know of few if any widely used technologies that were not mainly from good old terrestrial free enterprise. Even the internet really didn’t get to the scope it has now until the private firms started jumping in for the sake of, argh, the money.
I never heard of the Watson research center before, but I know about it now, thanks to Google.
It is an applied research, not a basic research, facility. IBM funds it because it has a reasonable expectation that the results of this applied research will translate into improved products and profits later on down the road.
Many companies fund applied research. Very few fund any kind of basic research, and those that do, earmark it for very specific types of research.
Research funding—basic and applied—also comes from private endowments, which also typically earmark funds for very specific areas of research.
As a scientist, however, I am not limited by the desires of those providing the funding. For a government grant, I only need to write up a grant application and show that I have a solid plan of study which is scientifically sound. If I want funding from a private or corporate source, I have to explain in my grant application how my research advances their goals. Either way, I am free to choose the type of research I want to do.
Basic research is conducted for the purpose of determining fundamental physical mechanisms, thereby expanding the knowledge base.
Applied research uses the fundamental knowledge learned in basic research to develop useful drugs, processes, or products.
Well... I could also count in military efforts. Because of all the whizbang missiles and such, we do have better civilian electronics. War and defense are legitimate constitutional duties. The mail is as well, but I don’t think the USPS really strained technology to the point it had to be evolved. I don’t know about space exploration, but there is something to be said for the seemliness of having it coordinated on a national and international level, lest every Tom, Dick, and Harry fill the stratosphere with space junk.
Al Gore did the math!!
Do not misinterpret my use of scientific language. As a scientist, I almost never state anything definitively. When I use a word like "suggests", I mean that all evidence available to me supports that statement.
You could use magnifying glasses... which start fires on ant piles... sheets of 1” glasses wrapped around the algae tank.
You are correct that article I read dealt with clinical studies. But I also recall some news recently of basic researchers being caught in falsifying research.
But I will have to stick to my guns and say that it would be better for science if the government was out of the business of selecting what research gets funded and what does not. Government could give tax breaks to industry to fund basic research at universities.
Government funded basic research gave us Anthropomorphic Global Warming and I would rather not have another round of that kind of science.