PNNL researchers thermochemically produce biocrude from algae

By Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | October 13, 2017

Researchers at the U.S. DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have created a continuous thermochemical process that produces useful biocrude from algae. The process takes just minutes and PNNL is working with a company that has licensed the technology to build a pilot plant using the technology.

The first part of the conversion process, hydrothermal liquefaction, creates biocrude that can be upgraded to produce fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. It also produces a byproduct wastewater stream that includes carbon and nutrients from the algae. A partnership with Washington State University researchers at the Tri-Cities campus led to a means of converting the wastewater stream, to a biobased natural gas. In this process, any remaining solid material can be further recycled into the hydrothermal liquefaction process or converted to an agricultural fertilizer.

WSU researchers are using anaerobic microbes to break down the residue in the wastewater. Having a viable way of dealing with the wastewater enhances the commercial viability of creating biocrude from algae or even sewage sludge as demonstrated by PNNL.


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