A remarkable discovery has been revealed as the scientist from the Department of Energy have engineered a certain process that can turn a simple algae into crude oil in only one hour. They have conducted an experiment at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and have managed to reduce greatly the natural process that normally takes about millions of years to complete. The engineers involved in this experiment were able to create a chemical process that produced crude oil in just minutes after the chemical is dispensed into harvested algae. The reaction of the process is not only quick, but it also continues to spread since it is creating a recyclable by-product that contains phosphorous which in turn is again used to grow algae.
Algae has always been a steady source of bio-fuel ever since and the scientist and engineers form PNNL only speed up the process so that it can be used more effectively. The process of converting algae into crude oil begins with a slurry of moist algae having a consistency and appearance like that of a pea soup and then it is poured right in front of the PNNL’s chemical reactor. Once inside, the algae now undergoes a process known as “hydrothermal liquefaction” and “catalytic hydrothermal gasification” which would normally take minutes to finish. The algae will be ‘cooked’ under 350 degrees Celsius and pressure of about 3,000 psi and the whole process usually takes about less than 1 hour. After which the crude oil by product comes out along with some water and the entire process is finished.
Douglas Elliot, one of the engineers in this PNNL experiment stated that the whole process is like having a pressure cooker but involving temperature and pressures that are much higher than the usual. They are somewhat duplicating the natural process of converting algae into oil which usually takes about millions of years to process and there are miniaturizing the entire process and making it faster as well.
The scientist added that further refining of the crude oil will lead to the production of various fuels that can be used for aircrafts, fuel burning automobiles, and even diesel vehicles. As for the water that came along with the crude oil by-product, it can also be utilized to produce other burning gases or even chemical substance like nitrogen and potassium which can also be used in growing more algae.
The newly discovered process is ensured to save time and money as compared to the other method being employed involving the drying of the algae which can be considered unnecessary. This new process makes use of the slurry containing 80%-90% of water and further eliminating the requirement to include the use of complex processing solvents such as hexane to derive the crude oil extract from the algae slurry. Elliot continued in his statement that they are a lot of bonuses while doing this process since they can also collect wastewater and extract gases from it while further recycling the water to use it again so that the nutrient can produce more algae.