Chevron Corp. and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced late last week that they have entered into a collaborative research and development agreement to study and advance technology to produce liquid transportation fuels using algae.
Chevron and NREL scientists will collaborate to identify and develop algae strains that can be economically harvested and processed into finished transportation fuels such as jet fuel.
The research project is the second under a five-year strategic biofuels research alliance between Chevron and NREL announced in October 2006. The first involves bio-oil reforming, a process by which bio-oils derived from the decomposition of biological feedstocks are then converted into hydrogen and biofuels.
"Biofuels will play an increasingly important role in diversifying energy supplies to meet the world's growing energy needs. Chevron believes that nonfood feedstock sources such as algae and cellulose hold the greatest promise to grow the biofuels industry to large scale," said Don Paul, vice president and chief technology officer, Chevron Corp.
Algae are considered a promising potential feedstock for next-generation biofuels because certain species contain high amounts of oil, which could be extracted, processed and refined into transportation fuels using currently available technology. Other benefits of algae as a potential feedstock are their abundance and fast growth rates. Key technical challenges include identifying the strains with the highest oil content and growth rates and developing cost-effective growing and harvesting methods.
NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the DOE by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle. More information about NREL is available at www.nrel.gov.