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Diesel fuel produced from microalgae-based biocrude

​For the first time ever, diesel fuel has been produced by refining the oil contained in biocrude made using hydrothermal liquefaction of microalgae. The first-ever drops of diesel to be obtained in this way prove that this method for producing biofuel is technically feasible—a major step forward.

Published on 25 June 2019

It is now possible to produce biofuel using the CO2 contained in industrial stack emissions. Following three years of research under the Vasco2 project, diesel fuel was produced in the lab from a biocrude made using hydrothermal liquefaction of microalgae, a process developed at Liten, a CEA Tech institute.

Microalgae in culture were fed with industrial stack emissions in open basins. The strains were not specially selected in any way and did not undergo any pre-treatment to reduce costs. Centrifugation was then used on the algae paste obtained before it was sent to Liten for hydrothermal liquefaction in a continuous reactor.  The high-temperature, high-pressure process is suitable for material with water content of up to 85%. Despite the variability of the input, the process produced a carbon-rich (73%-78%) biocrude with a lower heating value (LHV) comparable to fossil-based resources. The biocrude was distilled in a lab by Total to produce diesel.

Ultimately, the hydrothermal liquefaction process parameters could be further improved to increase biocrude yields. The next step will be to build an industrial-scale demonstrator. This advance makes the opportunities for creating an environmentally-friendly industrial process very real.

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