Green Crude program receives $750,000 in funding

University of Tulsa Chemical Engineering program receives government funding to strengthen its sustainable biofuels research.


The Universityof Tulsa will receive$750,000 from the federal government to expand and improve its research

green crude

Green crude is an oil derived from algae that can be used in similar ways to crude oil. Image Source: Green Crude Production.

programthat takes algae and refines it into gasoline.

The funding comes from an appropriation in theEnergy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act recentlyapproved by the U.S. Congress. Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. John Sullivan led theeffort.

The TU Department of Chemical Engineering will usethe money to expand its work in optimizing the algae-to-fuel conversionprocess, improve technical equipment and hire additional research staff. Italso plans to recruit and fund graduate students and post-doctoral fellows toaid in algae fuel experiments.

Sapphire Energy Inc., an alternative energycompany, partnered with TU in 2007 to produce gasoline from components thatmake up "green crude," an oil derived from algae that can be used insimilar ways to crude oil. TU chemical engineering faculty developed apatent-pending refining process for Sapphire Energy's green crude in 2008, andTU researchers have succeeded in turning algae into high-octane gasoline.

"The whole philosophy is totally differentfrom other alternative fuel projects," said Geoffrey Price, chemicalengineering professor and chair of the department. "This isn't biodiesel orethanol. It's gasoline, just made from another source."

Algae also absorb large quantities of carbondioxide (CO 2 ), creating a carbon-neutral cycle that removes an

Toyota Prius Algaeus

Green crude fueled the Algaeus, a Toyota Prius that became the world's first hybrid vehicle to cross the United States on algae-based renewable gasoline. Image source:

equivalentamount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as are emitted from cars. Producingalgae requires only three inputs -- sunlight, CO 2 and photosynthetic microorganisms(like algae) -- and does not require large amounts of fertilizer, farmland orfresh water.

"Algae can grow almost anywhere. The excitingthing about this project is that we aren't using any cropland to produce thealgae, and the process can use non-potable water and non-arable land,"said Daniel Crunkleton, associate professor of chemical engineering anddirector of TU's Instituteof Alternative Energy.

With research and development, fuel made from algaehas the potential to produce about 50% of the transportation fuel requirementsof the entire country by 2020, using 24 million acres of land. This contrastswith ethanol production from corn, which yields only 4% of U.S. fuel requirements using theequivalent amount of land.

Green crude is said to be compatible with theexisting petroleum infrastructure, from refinement through distribution and theretail supply chain. That downstream compatibility is one of the many advantagesthat caught Price's attention. As a 30-year veteran researching importantprocesses in the oil refining industry, he knew that alternative fuels couldmore easily become mainstream if they conformed to the manufacturing anddistribution system already in place.

"In addition to difficulties making and usingother proposed fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen, we would alsoneed to overhaul the existing downstream system to use them," Price said."Green crude can be refined at existing refineries, the products can betransported in existing pipelines, sold at gas stations and used in existingvehicles. That's one of the keys to bridging the gap between fossil andrenewable fuels."

Fuels derived from green crude were usedsuccessfully in several test flights with the commercial airlines Continentaland JAL in January 2009. Green crude also fueled the Algaeus, a Toyota Priusthat in September became the world's first hybrid vehicle to cross the United Stateson algae-based renewable gasoline.

Access other ControlEngineering content related to alternative fuels:

- Edited by David Greenfield , editorial director
Control Engineering Sustainable Engineering
News Desk

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.