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NREL Refinery Process Shows Increased Effectiveness of Producing Ethanol from Algae

February 11, 2016 - 5:07pm


A new biorefinery process developed by scientists at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has proven to be significantly more effective at producing ethanol from algae than previous methods. 

NREL researchers simplified the algal biofuel production process by skipping the solid-liquid separation process and fermenting the whole algae directly in a process called Combined Algal Processing. Using this process with the highly productive algal strain Scenedesmus, researchers were able to produce a fuel yield estimated at 126 gallons gasoline equivalent per ton of algae, which is 88% of the theoretical maximum yield. Read more from the NREL press release .

Increasing ethanol yield by using all algal components instead of just the lipids can help decrease the cost for algal biofuel production. BETO’s goal is to develop sustainable, cost-competitive biofuels from feedstocks, including algae, which can help to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create economic opportunities. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is one of eleven Energy Department national laboratories that receive funding from BETO.