‘Green energy’ via press release and tax money

In the latest “green energy” news, another gov’t facility has issued a press release announcing their Big Step forward. In this case, they’re claiming a major breakthrough in rapid conversion of algae into fuel oil and other hydrocarbons.

To be fair to them, they’re reasonably cautious in their statements. Of course, they’re calling for more funding. Oh, and they’ve got a commercial partner who’s participating courtesy of gov’t (taxpayer) grants…

[press release]

Algae to crude oil: Million-year natural process takes minutes in the lab

Richland, Washington – Engineers have created a continuous chemical process that produces useful crude oil minutes after they pour in harvested algae — a verdant green paste with the consistency of pea soup.

The research by engineers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was reported recently in the journal Algal Research. A biofuels company, Utah-based Genifuel Corp., has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology.

In the PNNL process, a slurry of wet algae is pumped into the front end of a chemical reactor. Once the system is up and running, out comes crude oil in less than an hour, along with water and a byproduct stream of material containing phosphorus that can be recycled to grow more algae.

rest: http://www.pnnl.gov/news/release.aspx?id=1029

14 responses to “‘Green energy’ via press release and tax money

  1. It seems that fossil fuel costs are volatile and to high. We need another type of energy. A solar derived process would seem to be inadequate. Would LFTR be a possibility.
    Bill price

  2. Westchester Bill

    Years ago Peter Huber brilliantly pointed out that getting energy directly from insolation requires lots of land. All the ugly windmills despoil wast tracks of land while yielding only a modest amount of electricity. Thermal solar in deserts makes better sense. If the algae approach uses sea surface, it might work out OK.

  3. ” the fuel is projected to be expensive” Nuff said.

  4. I notice they didn’t prognosticate a cost other than saying it was less expensive than other processes that required drying the algae. Interesting bit of research that will have little economic viability until we actually have gotten on the down slope of the peak oil scenario.

  5. AGW may be resolved and confidence in government science restored by . . .

    Asking leaders of the scientific community in public why:

    1. The internal composition of the Sun was changed from mostly iron (Fe) in 1945 to mostly hydrogen (H) in 1946?

    2. Textbooks replaced Nobel Laureate Aston’s rigorously valid “nuclear packing fraction” with von Weizsacker’s convincing but deceptive “nuclear binding energy” after the Second World War?


    Best wishes for the New Year,
    – Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  6. I think we are missing a profound point here. The public, and many scientists, have long understood that the conversion of dead algae and other micro-organisms to petroleum is a slow process, taking millenia, so geological production of new petroleum is not to be considered in human terms.

    To be sure, the rate of deposition of rocks in sedimentary basins does take millenia to reach burial deep enough to achieve the temperature and pressure regime necessary of this conversion to take place.

    But now we know that we can grow algae and produce petroleum essentially instantaneously, although the process is not economically competitive with the cheap oil and gas we now enjoy.

    But, the critical lesson to be learned here is, as long as there is sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide:


  7. If they do it on a big enough scale, several someones will put a stop to it. Using up all that irradiation will cause global cooling. (Hey, who knows, but it works as an argument.)

  8. Algae use ultraviolet, which has nothing to do with global warming – that is don by infrared, or heat. Besides, with out superabundance of fossil fuels, and the NU forecasting global population peaking near mid-century and then declining, it seems to me that large-scale algae to petroleum production is far in the future.

    The point is that the alternative energy promoters argue that we are running out of fossil petroleum, and this argument has lost its foundation. We cannot, run out of petroleum, because we now know how to make more on a human time scale.

    It would be hard to overstate the importance of the PNNL/Genifuel announcement.

  9. The better question is this: Can they project that the energy content of the oil that is produced could ever exceed the energy input for the pumps, heating elements, pressurization, etc.?

    It makes little sense to use X kilowatts of hydro or coal electricity to produce (X minus Y) kilowatts equivalent of oil. This has been the big argument against the supposed “efficiency” of corn-based ethanol.

  10. “Big Step forward?”
    Perhaps that should read as, “Great Leap Forward.” /sarc

  11. Tom M,
    And the big argument against PV solar as well. Windmills are still out, but at best they are barely “in the black” in terms of energy to produce versus energy they produce.

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