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Algae to crude oil: Million-year natural process takes minutes in the lab

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posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 03:17 PM
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This is really cool and very promising for the future. It does have its own set of roadblocks but I feel this is a very promising start.

Pacific Northwest Laboratory Press Release



RICHLAND, Wash. – 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.

The research by engineers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was reported recently in the journal Algal Research. A biofuels company, Utah-based Genifuel Corp., has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology.


Additional reading
Process development for hydrothermal liquefaction of algae feedstocks in a continuous-flow reactor



Abstract
Wet algae slurries can be converted into an upgradeable biocrude by hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL). High levels of carbon conversion to gravity separable biocrude product were accomplished at relatively low temperature (350 °C) in a continuous-flow, pressurized (sub-critical liquid water) environment (20 MPa). As opposed to earlier work in batch reactors reported by others, direct oil recovery was achieved without the use of a solvent and biomass trace components were removed by processing steps so that they did not cause process difficulties. High conversions were obtained even with high slurry concentrations of up to 35 wt.% of dry solids. Catalytic hydrotreating was effectively applied for hydrodeoxygenation, hydrodenitrogenation, and hydrodesulfurization of the biocrude to form liquid hydrocarbon fuel. Catalytic hydrothermal gasification was effectively applied for HTL byproduct water cleanup and fuel gas production from water soluble organics, allowing the water to be considered for recycle of nutrients to the algae growth ponds. As a result, high conversion of algae to liquid hydrocarbon and gas products was found with low levels of organic contamination in the byproduct water. All three process steps were accomplished in bench-scale, continuous-flow reactor systems such that design data for process scale-up was generated.




posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 03:47 PM
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reply to post by ATSmediaPRO
 


Man you post some good stuff! I have been anti "peak oil" for years getting into "biotic" vs. "abiotic" arguments and this just ends it all IMHO. Gotta go burn some fossil fuels now. s+f



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 04:19 PM
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So basically what their producing is for all intensive purposes is a rather instantaneous fossil fuel, now too my understanding of this is that they have come up with a cheap way to virtually perpetuate the fossil fuel based society that we have been living in with virtually no reason to search for a better way. This is a way to effectively eliminate any dependence on mideast oil for the foreseeable future, this has so many global economic consequences . Will this make middle eastern crude oil worthless in the immediate future?
edit on 18-12-2013 by DonVoigt because: (no reason given)

edit on 18-12-2013 by DonVoigt because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 04:40 PM
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This is an interesting find. I wonder how much energy is expended in the process? This brings to mind some farmers I have met in the past with large ponds on their property that are full of algae... If it is more efficient than importing it from other countries, or if it can be made to be more efficient I could see the coastal algae blooms becoming a harvestable resource.

Another thing comes to mind with all this. I wonder how much C02 is produced in the entire process. This process could become a target of the global warming bandwagon. If they are able to use a type of algae that produces oxygen by photosynthesis, that will be a major contributor to 02 production on Earth. Potentially it could stand to reduce C02 production with current methods, which could gain support of even the critics.

Edit: It would be very expensive, but would it be more economical than buying oil from other countries? If it was, it would be worth harvesting what is available. They may figure out ways to make it more efficient also.
edit on 12/18/2013 by InFriNiTee because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 04:42 PM
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howmuch4another
reply to post by ATSmediaPRO
 


Man you post some good stuff! I have been anti "peak oil" for years getting into "biotic" vs. "abiotic" arguments and this just ends it all IMHO. Gotta go burn some fossil fuels now. s+f


How would a producing oil from biogenic material in a lab support any abiotic arguments or even "anti"peak oil? If peak oil was not a reality (although manipulated for trade reasons) why are there so many fracking operations expanding globally, and why the reduced EROI on oil production? Suddenly things that were off limits suddenly became viable, yet environmental and capital cost increased 10 fold.


edit on 18-12-2013 by boncho because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 04:43 PM
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reply to post by ATSmediaPRO
 


I hope it works out.
Currently though, they have to heat it to 600+degrees F and hold it at 3, 000 psi to convert. That takes a lot of energy.



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 04:43 PM
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reply to post by InFriNiTee
 


I found this explanation over on reddit




OliverSparrow
Let's look at the numbers.
World energy demand in 2007, to pick a random year, was 144 TWh, of which oil was about a third, 48 TWh.
Effective daily mean insolation of an algal pond in an equatorial desert is something like 2MWh per square metre per annum. Alas, only 11% of that is photosynthetically effective, so the net figure is 220kWh. (A figure for US Southern desert conditions would be lower - 1.5MWh for a horizontal surface, 160kWh.)
Alga are at best 50% efficient at capturing the active wavelengths, so you are down to about 80 kWh per square metre if you use the US figure. Much of that will go in respiration, but let's be generous and say that a quarter will be harvested: 20kWh per square metre.
However, you need to convert the alga into something useful. The conversion process is endothermic and probably not efficient, in the sense of delivering C8-C11 paraffins. Let's give it a yield of 33%, which is probably strenuously over-generous, so the net is 6.6kWh/square metre. (You would do better to gasify the damp alga and then use the syngas for hydrocarbon synthesis or simply electricity generation, IMHO.)
How much pond area would you need to supply world oil demand?
4.8 * 1013 TWh divided by 6.6 * 103 metres of algal pond. That's 7272 square kilometres of pond. By the time you allow for cleaning, maintenance and so on you are up at 10,000 square kilometres. That's a lot of concrete, transport, pumps, centrifuges, processors. Bear in mind that the process would need to be aseptic, as the algal monoculture would need to be protected against virus and bacterial attack, let alone tadpoles and the usual things that eat it.



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 04:51 PM
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boncho

howmuch4another
reply to post by ATSmediaPRO
 


Man you post some good stuff! I have been anti "peak oil" for years getting into "biotic" vs. "abiotic" arguments and this just ends it all IMHO. Gotta go burn some fossil fuels now. s+f


How would a producing oil from biogenic material in a lab support any abiotic arguments or even "anti"peak oil? If peak oil was not a reality (although manipulated for trade reasons) why are there so many fracking operations expanding globally, and why the reduced EROI on oil production? Suddenly things that were off limits suddenly became viable, yet environmental and capital cost increased 10 fold.


edit on 18-12-2013 by boncho because: (no reason given)


It doesn't. My point is it doesn't matter. Whatever the particulars. The argument is there is no peak oil and if there were there isn't now. As far as fracking goes it is my opinion that technology was created to leverage OPEC by accessing our own shale reserves. It is not a fix. Again just my opinion.



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 04:53 PM
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reply to post by ATSmediaPRO
 



"That study concluded that the high capital cost could be ameliorated by operation of the process at larger scale. The largest uncertainty is the cost of the algae feedstock. As shown in Fig. 8, the overall yield of liquid hydrocarbon fuel on a dry basis is substantial, over 40% of the algal mass."


I was wondering about energy costs to make it versus what you get out of it. I couldn't find that.. Crude oil still has to be processed to use it in a car, not to mention they are using some form of coal or nuclear or gas energy to make the crude oil.

Besides those concerns this is really cool.

Of course weren't the German's making syntheitic oil in WWII? I wonder what process they used? I remember that it was a slow expensive process compared to if they had oil wells they could harvest.
edit on 12/18/2013 by Dustytoad because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 04:57 PM
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reply to post by Dustytoad
 

The Germans made their oil from bituminous coal.



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 04:59 PM
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InFriNiTee
Another thing comes to mind with all this. I wonder how much C02 is produced in the entire process. This process could become a target of the global warming bandwagon. If they are able to use a type of algae that produces oxygen by photosynthesis, that will be a major contributor to 02 production on Earth. Potentially it could stand to reduce C02 production with current methods, which could gain support of even the critics.


Theoretically, this process will remove CO2, not add.

The algae growth stage would consume more CO2 then the processing, and eventual consumption phase.

Theoretically.



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 05:09 PM
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reply to post by howmuch4another


It doesn't. My point is it doesn't matter. Whatever the particulars. The argument is there is no peak oil and if there were there isn't now. As far as fracking goes it is my opinion that technology was created to leverage OPEC by accessing our own shale reserves. It is not a fix. Again just my opinion.


 


There wasn't, and won't be, peak oil so long as people continue to move goalposts. No one expected oil sands or fracking to be a reality, once it's a reality all of a sudden production goes up.

So we could be living in a desolate wasteland in 50-100 years, and people will still say, "OMG those people back in the day, SO DUMB, we have better output now than we did then…. Hand me that respirator."



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 05:23 PM
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boncho
So we could be living in a desolate wasteland in 50-100 years, and people will still say, "OMG those people back in the day, SO DUMB, we have better output now than we did then…. Hand me that respirator."


Why would you require a respirator?

We are not far off from engines that exhaust nothing but CO2 and H20.

Once we hit that point, if our fuel production is consuming the CO2 and H2O, we are going to be very, very close to net zero consumption and disruption.

As it stands, today, the only major pollutants that come out of your exhaust, come from the additives. Future engines, especially if we poor money into their development, won't require those additives.

What anti-knock additives would be needed in an engine built from aluminum with carbon tube internal structures? Let it knock...it's not going to break. Not that it would knock, as compression adaptable engines are already in testing.

What stabilizers are needed if we can grow fuel at point of use? There would be no time for the fuel to degrade.

What detergents are needed if we have high efficiency engines? There is no real need to clean an engine (via fuel) that runs at very high efficiency.

Their is nothing inherently bad about burning fossil fuels. There is something inherently bad with millions of us burning fossil fuels at 30% efficiency (on good days).


edit on 18-12-2013 by peck420 because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 05:53 PM
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boncho

There wasn't, and won't be, peak oil so long as people continue to move goalposts. No one expected oil sands or fracking to be a reality, once it's a reality all of a sudden production goes up.



I don't think goalposts have anything to do with it. It doesn't exist and never has. It is like arguing for the existence of Unicorns by using statistics on Horses.

Yes, tracking was created but not actually needed so they had to create a need…right. I think this discovery could kill fracking in the long run. That is a good thing eh?
edit on 12/18/2013 by howmuch4another because: speeeling



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 06:00 PM
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DonVoigt
So basically what their producing is for all intensive purposes is a rather instantaneous fossil fue


My Bold - Im sorry I am such a pedantic but the correct term is intents and purposes, there is no such thing as intensive purposes.

Back on topic, I always thought there must be a way of accelerating the natural process of making oil, the problem is, it will still create greenhouse gases, raping the Earth of fossil fuels is no bad thing, because as they run out we will be forced to find alternative sources, hopefully those sources would be in harmony with the eco balance of the Earth unlike cutting down trees so reducing CO2 absorbtion and burning oil, increasing CO2 production.



posted on Dec, 18 2013 @ 06:42 PM
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reply to post by ATSmediaPRO
 


Don't let this video fool you, growing the algae is by far the most costly part of the process, and growing the algae takes much more than 60 minutes.

This is just a new conversion method to oil, and the oil still needs to be refined.

While this looks promising there are already many techniques for separating the majority of oil from algae.



posted on Dec, 19 2013 @ 03:39 AM
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Noooo! They found a way to GROW oil??

We are never going to have a renewable energy source that isn't harmful :/



posted on Dec, 19 2013 @ 05:28 AM
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reply to post by ATSmediaPRO
 


If this works like it says on the tin you can be sure it will soon be disappeared or discredited!



posted on Dec, 19 2013 @ 05:55 AM
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reply to post by andy06shake
 


Not for public consumption.



posted on Dec, 20 2013 @ 01:46 PM
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Unconventional oil such as shale has generally low energy returns and steep decline curves. The global economy requires the opposite.



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