From seaweed to biofuel: Compressing millions of years into a few minutes

SUGAR KELP seaweed is abundant in Norway, and researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have developed a way to turn it quickly into biocrude for refining into fuels.

Associate professor Khanh-Quang Tran from NTNU’s department of energy and process engineering says that while petroleum oil is produced naturally on a geological timescale, his team’s method can complete a similar process in just minutes. Using kelp to produce biofuel is desirable as it does not compete with food production A major advantage of the new process is that it does not use catalysts.

Tran’s process is fast hydrothermal liquefaction. A slurry of kelp and water is sealed in small quartz tube reactors, like sealed straws, and heated very rapidly at a rate of 585°C/minute.

The process achieves a maximum yield of 79% bio-oil from the kelp slurry, at a temperature of 350°C and a reaction time of 15 minutes. The bio-oil is dry and free of ash. It has a high heating value and its molecular properties mean that it will be relatively easy to refine it in to biofuel.

“When you want to scale up the process you have to work with a flow reactor,” says Tran. “I already have a very good idea for such a reactor.”

He believes that the yield can be increased and is seeking industrial partners to further his research.


Photo caption: The process achieves a maximum yield of 79% bio-oil from the kelp slurry

View original article at: From seaweed to biofuel

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