Fast hydrothermal liquefaction of nannochloropsis sp. to produce biocrude

Julia L. Faeth, Peter J. Valdez, Phillip E. Savage

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176 Scopus citations


We investigated the fast hydrothermal liquefaction of green marine alga Nannochloropsis sp. at batch reaction times of 1, 3, and 5 min and set-point temperatures of 300-600 C. We also performed conventional liquefaction for 60 min at the same temperatures. These experiments cover the broadest range of reaction conditions yet reported for algae liquefaction. The biocrude yield obtained for 1 min reaction times, which was only long enough to heat the reactor from room temperature to about half of the set-point temperature (in C), increased with an increasing set-point temperature to 66 ± 11 wt % (dry and ash-free basis) at a set-point temperature of 600 C. The biocrude obtained at this condition contains 84% of the carbon and 91 ± 14% of the heating value present in the dry algae feedstock. This biocrude yield and corresponding energy recovery are the highest reported for liquefaction of this alga. For a reaction time of 1 min, as the set-point temperature increases, light biocrude (e.g., hexane solubles) makes up less of the total biocrude. The biocrudes produced by fast liquefaction have carbon contents and higher heating values similar to biocrudes from the traditional isothermal liquefaction process, which involves treatment for tens of minutes. These results indicate that biocrudes of similar quality may be produced in higher yields and in a fraction of the time previously thought necessary. Such a decrease in the reaction time would greatly reduce the reactor volume required for continuous biocrude production, subsequently reducing the capital costs of such a process. We also show that the reaction ordinate is a useful parameter for interpreting results from algae liquefaction performed at different temperatures and reaction times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1391-1398
Number of pages8
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 21 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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