PNNL creates way to make natural gas from algae
May 7, 2009 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
- Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.
A new method for converting algae into natural
gas for use in pipelines and power generation has
been transferred to the marketplace under a license
between Genifuel Corp. and Battelle.
The process was developed at the Department of
Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in
Richland, which is operated by Battelle. Work was
done most recently at the new Bioproducts, Sciences
and Engineering Laboratory at Washington State University
Tri-Cities, a joint project of the university and
The new technology, called catalytic hydrothermal
gasification, creates natural gas out of algae more
quickly, more efficiently and at higher yields than
other biofuel processes, according to the lab.
Doug Elliott, the PNNL scientist who invented the
gasification process, said wet biomass like algae
is placed in the gasifier, where it catalytically
converted and then fuel gas and carbon dioxide are
collected. The carbon dioxide can be used to grow
"It's a completely green process," Elliott said
in a statement.
PNNL originally developed the catalytic gasification
process to clean up industrial and food processing
waste as an alternative to incineration. The technology
then was advanced to include a more stable catalyst
that enables it to also convert wet biomass, such
"Algae and other aquatic biomass hold significant
promise for our country's ability to produce renewable
energy domestically," said Jim Oyler, president
of Genefuel, which has developed methods to grow
and harvest aquatic biomass. "With this gasification
process, we can convert the biomass to a clean fuel
that is almost completely carbon neutral."
Genefuel is based in Salt Lake City, and has an
exclusive license for the technology.