The future of green? Local laboratory turns algae to crude oil in minutes

RICHLAND, Wash. -- An Eastern Washington laboratory has developed a way to mass-convert algae into crude oil, potentially having vast implications on the future and possibility of a carbon-neutral fuel source.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratories has found a way to convert wet, sloppy algae into crude oil by condensing a process that takes a million-year process and condenses it into a matter of minutes, according to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers. The conversion process is so effective, the local company has licensed the technology and is working with industrial partners to build a large-scale version of the conversion machine.

Scientists have long been able to turn algae into crude oil, but only through a lengthy, expensive process on a smaller scale. The new PNNL technology harnesses "algae's energy potential efficiently and incorporates a number of methods to reduce the cost of producing algae fuel," PNNL reported.

Prior to the new process, algae needed to be dried before conversion; a process that was expensive. Now PNNL is producing the oil from wet algae.

"Not having to dry  the algae is a big win in the process; that cuts the cost a deal," said Douglas Elliott, the laboratory fellow who led the PNNl team's research.

For more information on this PNNL story, click here.