The Ultimate Green Fuel? Utah Engineers Convert Algae Into Bio-Fuel

131218100141There is a fascinating new breakthrough out of Utah where engineers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have invented a machine that can convert algae and into crude oil in minutes — skipping the usual millions of years of natural development. The invention could offer a unique and plentiful biofuel.

Genifuel Corp., a biofuels company from Utah, wants to developed the new invention on an industrial scale where a slurry of wet algae is pumped into the front end of a chemical reactor and crude oil comes out the other end within an hour. The process only produces the byproduct of water and material containing phosphorus that can be recycled to grow more algae. It would be interesting if natural algae can be used — allowing for the collection of growing algae blooms that are choking waterways that in turn would produce fuel and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

The algae-based product can be conventionally produced into “aviation fuel, gasoline, or diesel fuel.”

Particularly with the recent study on the dangers of fracking, the Utah breakthrough is exciting and seems to offer a real hope for a viable alternative biofuel. Unlike corn with high production costs and collateral pollution, it would seem to offer a small environmental footprint for production.

What do you think?

25 thoughts on “The Ultimate Green Fuel? Utah Engineers Convert Algae Into Bio-Fuel”

  1. Gene H.

    This is simple chemistry, every molecule of fuel we produce from plants we grow fixes CO2 from the atmosphere into the fuel, then releases it when we burn the fuel.

    As long as the production/distribution process does not require us to burn additional coal or oil, then the whole process is homeostatic.

    Now in reality, that is rather unlikely, so true homeostasis is not practical, but note that I said “nearly”, not “exactly”.

    We have no idea when the CO2 concentration will hit some kind of runaway point, so every little thing we can do to reduce the new CO2 we introduce is a win for all.

  2. madrocketscientist,

    I won’t argue that incremental improvement beats no improvement, but I don’t think I agree with the statement “because we take it out at nearly the same rate we put it in”. That describes a system in homeostasis.

  3. Cameron and svoogie,

    Ever hear of too much of a good thing? You know how important it is to stay hydrated, but it’s also possible to overdose and die from drinking too much water. It happens every now and then.

    Geological processes have sequestered amounts of CO2 necessary to create the climatic zones in which humans have evolved. That process took millions of years. You want to claim god did that, I’m fine with that. After all, who else has that much time.

    Unfortunately, mankind has evolved to the point where it can undo that process and reintroduce all that carbon back into the atmosphere, thereby altering the global climate. I’m curious why you don’t view this as undoing god’s hard work. If we’re given the choice of good or evil, isn’t possible for a society to collectively choose evil? Isn’t that what Sodom and Gomorrah. did? Ruining the Lord’s good work would be evil; their fate could also become ours.

    Developing a carbon neutral fuel source could be an important step to slowing the increase in atmospheric carbon. More importantly, it would substantially reduce the damage to the landscape caused by drilling, and drilling mishaps, which is increasingly taking place in sensitive ecosystems. No longer exploited for oil, natural areas could be returned to performing the undervalued role of mitigating the atmosphere and changes in global climate.

    BTW, I recall hearing a year ago about a company in Spain that was looking to industrialize this process.

  4. “please point out where anyone here has said “co2 is poison”.

    strawman much?”

    If you can read, then Dredd did. Here:

    “That problem is CO2 garbage/poison being pumped into the atmosphere as a result of burning those fuels.”

    He is obviously a little unfamilair with how nature – and life itself – is totally dependent on Co2. Without it there would be no plants?grass/trees and no food and no humans or animals.

    Poison indeed. But this kind of over the top rhetoric is well known here.

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