With transportation uses of energy on the rise in the United States and currently 25-30% of total US energy accounted for by transportation uses, petroleum is almost solely relied upon to fill these needs. However, with petroleum costs rising, green house emissions gasses increasing in amount and decreasing the ozone layer, alternative fuel sources and their respective processes have been formed, researched, and tested. One of these processes is the Fisher-Tropsch process. Established in the 1920s by two German scientists, this process was created in order to convert coal to diesel fuel. Now, research has found feedstocks other than coal that can be used in this process. Biomasses, such as algae have become probable feedstock resource for this process.
With the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process the fuel created is a very high performing diesel that greatly resembles that of conventional diesel. All properties of the fuel generated by the FT process are the same as conventional diesel. The only difference is that the toxicity of the fuel from the FT process is a little less. Also, the functional unit is 1 gal of FT diesel = 1 gal of conventional diesel.
From feedstock to finished product, many steps occur during the process. Converting the feedstock to a finished product via the Fisher -Tropsch process requires other processes to take place. These processes include making fertilizers for the cultivation of the algae, dewatering the wet algae in order to produce dry algae, gasifying the algae to extract CO2, H2, and other trace elements, and finally using the syngas formed by CO2 as a feed for the Fisher-Tropsch process to make diesel. Below a flow diagram illustrates the process of converting the algae to the fuel.
As you can see, this is a very interesting process that can show some promising attempts for alternative energy resources. However, a lot of energy is required in order to have this process work. Because of this, this process is still not a viable resource. More research is needed in order to make this process possible.
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Stranges, D. A. (2008, May 2). Discussion of current Fisher-Tropsch process plants. Interview presented at Texas A&M University, Telephone.