August 7, 2009

ND Research Center to Develop Fuel from Algae

The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota has been awarded a subcontract by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a Fortune 500 scientific, engineering, and technology applications company based in San Diego, California, to help produce jet fuel from algae. As an example of its potential, just one acre of algae produces between 5,000 and 15,000 gallons of fuel, compared to only 50 gallons from 1 acre of soybeans.

The effort is being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and is a continuation of the world’s first successful production of 100% renewable fuel for the U.S. military by the EERC.

“The EERC provides real-world solutions to our nation’s mounting economic, environmental, and security challenges,” said EERC Director Gerald Groenewold.

Under a previous DARPA contract, the EERC advanced the development of a feedstock-flexible process that can utilize various crop oil feedstocks to produce combinations of renewable jet fuel, diesel, and naphtha (a constituent used to create chemicals and gasoline) that are essentially identical to their petroleum-derived counterparts.

The EERC will utilize the same proprietary technology to produce jet fuel from algae oils. Working with SAIC to produce the fuels from algae enhances the EERC’s capabilities for commercial production of economically viable renewable fuels that are fully interchangeable with existing fuels and distribution networks, do not negatively impact the world’s food supply, and are environmentally benign.

Together, SAIC and the EERC will produce fuel samples for government test and evaluation. Sample production will be performed in the EERC’s liquid fuel demonstration facilities.

Information generated during this effort will support development of a design for a pilot test facility with the flexibility to produce either diesel or jet fuel in response to market demand. This effort will advance the research and allow for a detailed assessment of the economic viability of the EERC’s renewable oil-refining technology.

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