One Minute of Pressure Cooking Turns Algae Into Crude Oil

By pressure cooking algae for 60 seconds, researcher says he can turn them into crude oil

By Laura Sinpetru on November 2nd, 2012 21:41 GMT

Only yesterday, a team of scientists working with the University of Michigan made it public news that, thanks to a new technology, it is possible to turn algae into crude oil in just one minute.

Their findings were thoroughly discussed during the latest annual meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, which took place in Pittsburgh.

Oil Price lets us in on the science talk concerning this new method of producing crude oil using algae as raw material.

Thus, these researchers, led by engineer Phil Savage, simply place tiny amounts of wet algae (about 1.5 milliliters) inside a steel pipe connector, which is then “buried” in sand preheated to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit (593.3 degrees Celsius).

After spending one minute pressure cooking in this manner, the wet algae heats up to about 550 degrees Fahrenheit (287.7 degrees Celsius) and 65% of it supposedly turns into bio crude oil.

According to Phil Savage, the working principles behind their decision to pressure cook algae in order to turn it into crude oil are in fact inspired by nature.

“We're trying to mimic the process in nature that forms crude oil with marine organisms,” this specialist explained with respect to this innovative technology he and his team are now researching.

Interestingly enough, neither Phil Savage nor the other members of his team can put their finger on the underlying causes that make pressure cooking such an efficient means of turning algae into crude oil.

Doctoral student Julia Faeth speculates that, by fast heating the algae, any unwanted additional chemical reactions are kept from taking place.

“For example, the biocrude might decompose into substances that dissolve in water, and the fast heating rates might discourage that reaction,” Julia Faeth said.

Presently, Phil Savage and his team are busy trying to figure out whether or not this technology could yield significant benefits when implemented on a commercial scale.

More precisely, they wish to see whether it would indeed prove both faster and cheaper than the other methods currently employed to turn algae into crude oil.
Scientists turn wet algae into crude oil in just one minute
   Scientists turn wet algae into crude oil in just one minute
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