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PNNL, WSU Partnership Produce Byproducts From Biofuel
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

A collaboration between researchers at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Washington State University (WSU) has led to the development of a method for converting hydrothermal liquefaction wastewater into a usable and valuable commodity.  The method utilizes the byproduct wastewater stream from the continuous thermo-chemical process that PNNL researchers developed to produce biocrude from algae.  The wastewater contains a variety of different chemicals in small concentrations, such as carbon and nutrients from the algae, and accounts for approximately 90 percent of the output.  Researchers at WSU Tri-Cities’ Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory have developed a method to process the wastewater using anaerobic microbes.  The microbes break down the components of the wastewater to produce bionatural gas and a solid byproduct that can be recycled back into the hydrothermal liquefaction process or used as a fertilizer.  Following the success of the partnership, PNNL and WSU researchers are collaborating on the conversion of sewage sludge to biofuel, bionatural gas, and nutrients using a similar strategy.