Chemical reactor developed that turns algae into crude oil in 60 minutes:
Although efforts are being made to cut down on our reliance on oil, such as more efficient cars and green energy production solutions, it seems very unlikely we’ll ever stop using it completely. At least, not before it runs out, anyway. So it’s reassuring to know that there may be an alternative in the works that allows us to produce our very own crude oil.
Engineers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have created a chemical reactor that takes in wet algae and outputs crude oil 60 minutes later. The only byproducts are clean water and a phosphorous-containing waste material that can be reused to grow more algae or converted into a burnable gas among other things.
The crude oil does require further refining as all oil does, but the researchers claim the end result is a usable fuel that replaces conventional aviation fuel, gasoline, or diesel.
One of the major roadblocks of fuel creation from algae is cost. Typically the algae needs to be dry, requires the use of solvents, and is only produced in batches, which is slow. This new method solves a lot of those problems. It works with wet algae, relies on heat and pressure inside the reactor, and is a continuous process so it can just keep producing 24/7.
The chemical reactor setup in their lab can process 1.5 liters of algae an hour, but it is very small and can easily be scaled. It operates at 350 degrees Celsius and uses water at a pressure of 3,000 PSI to create processes known as hydrothermal liquefaction and hydrothermal gasification. The reactor is expensive, but the costs are up front and therefore can be recouped long term from the oil and subsequent fuels it produces.
The researchers describe what they have created as a very high temperature pressure cooker that duplicates what the Earth does to produce oil, only much faster. Whether you believe the claims are true or not, it’s a solution that has already been licensed by Utah company Genifuel Corp. who is now working to roll it out on an industrial scale.