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Ultraefficient Algae-to-Biocrude Conversion Process Advances to Pilot Scale

February 2015

In a continuing quest for sources of renewable energy, organic sources like grass, wood, or even algae—referred to as feedstocks—have made their way into the fuel supply chain. However, for algae in particular, the tremendous cost of cultivation, harvest, and conversion has been a roadblock to market acceptance as an available and affordable renewable fuel option.

Recognizing the need for more cost-effective biomass fuel options, DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office invested in the idea of using hydrothermal liquefaction, a form of dehydration, to streamline and optimize the algae-to-biocrude conversion process. The continuous process uses heat and pressure to chemically and physically change the algae into biocrude in a matter of minutes (see video). Through simplified operations and greatly improved yields, the new process can reduce the cost of the algal fuel enterprise by nearly 90 percent. It also works with other wet biomass and food waste feedstocks.

Researchers at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory worked with industrial partner Genifuel Corporation to advance their lab scale research to the pilot scale in September 2014. This breakthrough advance in biofuels production research resulted in two patents and a 2015 Federal Laboratory Consortium award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. For more details, see the PNNL press release .

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