An international science team has made biofuel from an algae which flourishes in northern Australia
May 03, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
A native freshwater algae from northern Australia can be used to make renewable jet fuel, a team of international scientists has found.
Researchers from James Cook University, Sydney University and Israel’s Ben Gurion University have developed a process to create biofuel from the humble macroalgae Oedogonium.
That biofuel is then blended with gasoline, jet fuel and diesel.
Professor Rocky de Nys from James Cook led the group responsible for providing the project with the algae, which was grown under special conditions and tailor-made to fit the needs of the project.
“Oedogonium is a robust, non-invasive species that is highly productive and easily cultivated on a large scale,” he said.
“This makes it an attractive source of biomass for further processing to create renewable fuels and chemicals.”
USYD’s Dr Thomas Maschmeyer and Professor Brian Haynes worked with their own teams on controlling the conversion of the stringy green algae into a crude oil equivalent.
“A key problem associated with processing algae into liquid transportation fuel is the presence of nitrogen from algal proteins in the intermediate bio crude oil, as the nitrogen poisons downstream catalysts required for further upgrading,” said Professor Maschmeyer.
“However, the nitrogen content can, in fact, be controlled at multiple points in the production chain from biomass to high-grade fuel product.”
In order to use the algae effectively, the team had to address the issues of waste nutrient, water and carbon recycling.
“The low nitrogen macroalgae are converted to bio-crude oil, which is combined with a synthetic fuel stream produced by catalytic conversion of waste CO2, resulting, after further processing, in a finished fuel blend,” explained Professor Hayes.
“The process makes use of water at very high temperature and pressure to liquefy the algae and convert it into an energy-dense bio-crude oil.
“Our research colleagues at Ben Gurion University used their expertise to take the bio-crude oil and refine it into a finished fuel product.”
The work was supported in Australia by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Advanced Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre and MBD Energy Ltd.
Results have been published online in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, with researchers hopeful for wide-ranging industrial use of the algae-based fuel.