General Atomics is a San Diego-based innovation firm with a 55-year history of providing successful solutions to environmental, energy and defense challenges. Affiliated manufacturing and commercial service companies include General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc, which produces the Predator® family of unmanned aircraft systems.
Photosynthetic Algae Technology Development
The U.S. Air Force, Texas AgriLife Research and General Atomics are working together at the AgriLife Research Station in Pecos, Texas to demonstrate the commercial viability of the large scale production of bio-oils and biofuels from microalgae feedstock.
Texas AgriLife Research, a member of the Texas A&M University System, has committed extensive resources to the development of microalgae bio-oils technology. Texas Emerging Technology Funds, as well as federal funds, have been used to build a world-class test facility in Pecos, Texas. The goal at this facility is to develop and demonstrate algae growth, harvesting and bio-oil extraction processes that can be commercially scaled and economically replicated in the Southwestern desert regions of the U.S. for industrial production of biofuels.
General Atomics, AgriLife Research’s industrial partner on this project, has also made major IR&D commitments and has built a world-class microalgae development facility at their headquarters, in San Diego.
Together, these two lead organizations have built a team of the most advanced industry, university, national labs and government partners synergistically working on development of this technology.
Cellulosic-Derived Biofuel Program
The U.S. Air Force, Eastern Kentucky University and General Atomics are working to develop and demonstrate bio-oil production processes and the follow-on production of JP-8 fuel using cellulosic feedstocks.
The initial agricultural crop studies and the preliminary economical impact modeling have been completed and the laboratory and engineering tests of cellulosic breakdown, microbial digestion, and oil extraction processes are underway. If these are successful, the program will move to a pilot-scale demonstration that validates the scalability, economics and process integration necessary for commercial viability.
Sewage-Derived Biofuel Program
General Atomics and Mississippi State University’s Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering research and development program are working to demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale biofuels production from military and municipal wastewater treatment facilities, using a combination of algae and the microorganisms found in sewage. The novel use of algae and microorganisms in this program will yield a cleaner effluent water stream for release while permitting the accumulation and recovery of oil for conversion to biofuels.
Conceptual designs and cost models have been developed and fundamental research on critical elements of the process is underway. If that is successful, bench-scale subsystems for sewage-to-biofuel production will be fabricated and tested with the larger goal of developing a pilot-scale demonstration plant to provide the data necessary for scale-up to a production facility.
Jim Elliott, Program Manager
Phone: (541) 382-2545
Address: 3550 General Atomics Court, San Diego, CA 92121