Friday, October 01, 2010

Additional Hydrocarbon Production by Adding Algal Biomass to Delayed Coker Feedstock

Oil refiners are straining to extract as much value from petroleum -- particularly sour heavy crudes. Foster Wheeler's delayed coking technology extracts even more hydrocarbon from the residual remaining after fractional and vacuum distillation of petroleum.

Now, Foster Wheeler reports that the addition of algal biomass to petroleum "vacuum residue" yields additional high value hydrocarbons:
Testing was conducted to demonstrate that the biomass is an effective add-in complement to vacuum residue coker feedstock, and does not significantly affect overall coker operations. The initial test results demonstrate that biomass, mixed with vacuum residue, yields additional valuable hydrocarbons as a result of biomass carbohydrate and lipid decomposition. Further testing and engineering development is underway to optimize process parameters and feedstock blend ratios.

"We are very pleased with the results from our initial testing of PetroAlgae's biomass that generates green fuels from a blend of biomass and petroleum vacuum residue," said Umberto della Sala, president and chief operating officer of Foster Wheeler AG. "These results could lead to a change in the way refineries look at biofuels in the future, as we believe this presents a commercially scalable source of biomass which produces a true 'drop in' feedstock which is compatible with the entire existing transportation fuel infrastructure."

This obscure approach may represent a near-term means for the economical use of algal biomass for fuel and chemical production. We will have to learn more about the yields and economies involved, and whether government mandates or subsidies are required to achieve profitability. Those are questions which press releases often overlook.



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