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Biofuel breakthrough with pressure-cooked algae

 
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Mark



Joined: 13 Dec 2007
Posts: 883
Location: NW England

PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:53 pm    Post subject: Biofuel breakthrough with pressure-cooked algae Reply with quote

http://www.greenintelligence.org.uk/article/biofuel-breakthrough-pressure-cooked-algae

Scientists in Michigan, in the U.S., have found a way to create biofuels by pressure-cooking algae to produce crude oil in just 60 seconds, in a new breakthrough for renewable energy. Researchers at the University of Michigan College of Engineering claim the new technique can transform an unprecedented 65 per cent of the green marine algae into biocrude oil. Their findings were presented on Thursday 1 November at the 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting.

Mimicking nature

Phil Savage, the professor behind the discovery said: "We're trying to mimic the process in nature that forms crude oil with marine organisms." The conversion process involves filling a steel pipe connector with 1.5ml of wet algae, capping it and plunging it into 1,100 Fahrenheit sand. The temperature of the algae rises to about 550 Fahrenheit within a minute.

Rapid heating

The most recent 60 second experiments have produced much better results than earlier, 10 to 90 minute attempts. Professor Savage said: "My guess is that the reactions that produce biocrude are actually must faster than previously thought." Julia Faeth, the doctoral student working alongside him in the lab, said the faster heating might boost the conversion rate by keeping unwanted reactions at bay. She said: "The biocrude might decompose into substances that dissolve in water, and the fast heating rates might discourage that reaction."

Commercial production

If the technique for using small quantities of algae and sand and shorter heating times can be perfected, it is likely that the cost of producing algae-based biofuels will be significantly reduced. Currently, algae-based fuel is produced commercially by drying out algae and extracting the natural oils from it, but it costs about 12.50 ($20) per gallon, which means it is too expensive to compete with fossil fuels at the petrol pump. It also only extracts fat from the algae, but the new wet algae method also breaks down its proteins and carbohydrates, so that more energy is available to be converted into oil.

Savage added: "Companies know that that approach is not economical, so they are looking at approaches for using wet algae, as are we." Unlike other biofuels sources, such as the maize used for ethanol production, algae can be grown in brackish ponds and swamps, rather than on high quality farmland. His lab is also looking at better ways of pre-refining biocrude, to make it more compatible with existing petrol refinery systems, which is another key barrier to commercialisation.
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Little John



Joined: 08 Mar 2008
Posts: 5667
Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 7:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Biofuel breakthrough with pressure-cooked algae Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
http://www.greenintelligence.org.uk/article/biofuel-breakthrough-pressure-cooked-algae

Scientists in Michigan, in the U.S., have found a way to create biofuels by pressure-cooking algae to produce crude oil in just 60 seconds, in a new breakthrough for renewable energy. Researchers at the University of Michigan College of Engineering claim the new technique can transform an unprecedented 65 per cent of the green marine algae into biocrude oil. Their findings were presented on Thursday 1 November at the 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting.

Mimicking nature

Phil Savage, the professor behind the discovery said: "We're trying to mimic the process in nature that forms crude oil with marine organisms." The conversion process involves filling a steel pipe connector with 1.5ml of wet algae, capping it and plunging it into 1,100 Fahrenheit sand. The temperature of the algae rises to about 550 Fahrenheit within a minute.

Rapid heating

The most recent 60 second experiments have produced much better results than earlier, 10 to 90 minute attempts. Professor Savage said: "My guess is that the reactions that produce biocrude are actually must faster than previously thought." Julia Faeth, the doctoral student working alongside him in the lab, said the faster heating might boost the conversion rate by keeping unwanted reactions at bay. She said: "The biocrude might decompose into substances that dissolve in water, and the fast heating rates might discourage that reaction."

Commercial production

If the technique for using small quantities of algae and sand and shorter heating times can be perfected, it is likely that the cost of producing algae-based biofuels will be significantly reduced. Currently, algae-based fuel is produced commercially by drying out algae and extracting the natural oils from it, but it costs about 12.50 ($20) per gallon, which means it is too expensive to compete with fossil fuels at the petrol pump. It also only extracts fat from the algae, but the new wet algae method also breaks down its proteins and carbohydrates, so that more energy is available to be converted into oil.

Savage added: "Companies know that that approach is not economical, so they are looking at approaches for using wet algae, as are we." Unlike other biofuels sources, such as the maize used for ethanol production, algae can be grown in brackish ponds and swamps, rather than on high quality farmland. His lab is also looking at better ways of pre-refining biocrude, to make it more compatible with existing petrol refinery systems, which is another key barrier to commercialisation.
EROEI?

Sand doesn't get to 1,100 Fahrenheit all by itself.
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adam2
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Joined: 02 Jul 2007
Posts: 6218
Location: North Somerset

PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2012 10:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MIGHT be worthwhile if the heat input was from concentrating solar thermal sources.
Algae is only another form of solar energy, but a potentialy valuable form if liquid fuell is required rather than heat or electricity.
Although algae is a form of biofuel, it is unlikely to compete with food crops. If ever mass produced , this would be done in regions unsuited to agrigculture.
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emordnilap



Joined: 05 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2014 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another one which seems to miss a point or two

Quote:
The system runs at around 350 degrees Celsius (662 degrees Fahrenheit) at a pressure of around 3,000 PSI, combining processes known as hydrothermal liquefaction and catalytic hydrothermal gasification. Elliott says such a high-pressure system is not easy or cheap to build, which is one drawback to the technology, though the cost savings on the back end more than makes up for the investment.

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