Biojet Fuel from Algae – Unitel’s New Technology
Overcomes a Major Problem Facing the Algal
Process eliminates the energy intensive and costly oil extraction step
July 09, 2010 02:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
MT. PROSPECT, Ill.--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--Unitel Technologies, Inc. announced that the company has
filed a patent application for a new technology for making biofuels from microalgae. The process involves minimal
dewatering, and completely bypasses the energy intensive drying and oil extraction steps.
Currently, most of the proposed methods in the biofuels-from-algae space require the extraction of immobilized oil
from algal biomass. However, regardless of the oil extraction technique used, and some are more efficient than
others, getting to the oil is usually very expensive in terms of capital and energy costs. In some instances, the amount
of energy consumed to extract the oil can actually exceed the energy value of the end product.
“That’s why we decided to develop a technology that sets us apart from the other players in this field,” notes Serge
Randhava, CEO of Unitel. “Instead of trying to extract algal oil, we have determined that it is much more cost-
effective to focus our attention on the production of algal fatty acids,” adds Serge.
In the Unitel process, the feedstock – a slurry or “soup” of water and cultivated algae (1% to 20% by weight) is
continuously treated in a special hydrolysis reactor to yield 1) a fatty acid product, 2) a “sweet” water stream
containing glycerol and other solubles, and 3) deoiled algal biomass. A small fraction of the fatty acid product is fed
back into the reactor as catalyst.
The nutrient rich “sweet water” is recycled into the algae propagation tanks, where the carbon in the glycerol serves
to promote the growth of phytoplankton. The deoiled biomass (consisting primarily of proteins and carbohydrates) is
dried as a food ingredient for animal consumption.
The algal fatty acid product is catalytically decarboxy