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scientist manufacture crude oil from algae

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by dryworm, Dec 19, 2013.

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  1. dryworm

    dryworm New Member


    A new scientific discovery that takes algae and turns it into crude oil in minutes rather than millions of years could be the end of constant worries over "peak oil."
    Engineers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) announced that they have created a process that takes an enriched stew of algae and turns it into crude oil which, in turn, can be made into a usable bio-fuel. The development was announced in a recent issue of the journal Algal Research.

    Genifuel Corp., a biofuels company from Utah, has licensed the technology and is attempting to utilize the process on a larger, industrial scale.

    In a press release, PNNL described, "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."

    The press release also noted that "conventional refining" is then capable of taking the man-made crude oil and turning it into usable biofuels. PNNL notes that the man-made crude can be made into "aviation fuel, gasoline, or diesel fuel."

    PNNL also feels that its process has eliminated the high cost of other algae-based biofuels processes.

    "Cost is the big roadblock for algae-based fuel," said Douglas Elliott, leader of the PNNL research team. "We believe that the process we've created will help make algae biofuels much more economical."

    The biggest cost-saving aspect of the new process is that the PNNL team figured out how to use wet algae, whereas most other formulas require the algae to be in a dry form.

    "Not having to dry the algae is a big win in this process; that cuts the cost a great deal. Then there are bonuses, like being able to extract usable gas from the water and then recycle the remaining water and nutrients to help grow more algae, which further reduces costs," Elliot said.

    Another exciting development in this new process is that the system works continuously. Other attempts created biofuels in single batches, but this new process works more like an assembly line in a continuously moving and producing system.

    The new process also dispenses with the use of toxic chemicals and solvents to separate the energy-rich oils from the algae. The process uses high heat and pressure instead.

    "It's a bit like using a pressure cooker, only the pressures and temperatures we use are much higher," Elliott said. "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."

    Perhaps it won't be long before humanity manufacturing its own oil eliminates the question of whether to drill the earth for it.
  2. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    I saw this today too. Making is a continuous process is huge. That's definitely paving the way for this to really work - been keeping an eye on this industry for a while and waiting for this to happen!!
  3. Ace25

    Ace25 Member Trusted Member

    Haven't we been doing that for years now?

  4. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    I think the difference is that this system can be run in continuous fashion instead of as batch production. But that's a good question ace.

    The real question is if it only takes turning 1/10th of the state of New Mexico into photo bio reactors to replace all of the power needs of the entire US...

  5. Ace25

    Ace25 Member Trusted Member

    We have somewhat, it just isn't very publicized because of 'big oil', but 50% of the fuel that the US military uses is made from algae and has been for a few years now.

    The Navy also runs the worlds largest (and WORKING) cold fusion reactor, and has been for over 20 years now.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013
  6. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    mind blown
  7. Rumpy Pumpy

    Rumpy Pumpy Member Trusted Member


  8. Ace25

    Ace25 Member Trusted Member

    To me, the biggest 'mind blown' thing that has happened in the last few years is the fact that the Navy was able to get a patent on 'cold fusion' by finally proving how it works. The term cold fusion is misleading which is why the process was renamed. It isn't really fusion taking place, but the outcome is still what we want, which is nuclear energy created at room temperature. That to me is the biggest leap in progress in energy in the last 60+ years. Between 1989 (when cold fusion was first announced) - 2007 the US patent office considered it 'junk science' that didn't follow the laws of physics so no patents could be granted, even though there have been over a dozen companies (and many more universities) since 1989 that have shown the process does work, but until recently, couldn't say with the scientific accuracy required why it works.

    Algae is a good alternative to oil, but it still has a few glaring hurdles that make it far from ideal, mainly the nutrients required (NPK) are mostly imported these days so we would still need to rely on other countries for some part of the fuel making process. While being a net 0 carbon fuel (if you use solar/wind/or even LENR in near future to power the algae farms) is much better than current gas/oil, it isn't the end all be all answer to fuel problems. It is a giant step in the right direction and one I think the world should strive towards until better alternatives come along.

    The biggest hurdle I see us facing today that I feel is severely limiting our progress is energy storage. I can give you 20 different ways, a dozen of them 'green', to be able to create energy, but finding a way to store that energy safely and in something small and lite enough to meet modern demands is the big hurdle. Today's batteries have a terrible storage to weight ratio, and once we find the answer to that problem even the stars will be at most peoples finger tips. The last big leap we made in the storage area was in the 1970s with Lithium Ion, so almost 40 years and no real progress to speak of.

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