Converting kelp to fuel 

Hydrothermal conversion of sugar kelp into hydrocarbons

Researchers employ catalytic hydrothermal liquefaction to convert wet sugar kelp to hydrocarbons that can be used as drop-in transportation fuels or high-value chemicals, and engage UW students through summer courses on kelp aquaculture and product development.

Principal Investigator

Fernando Resende, University of Texas at Tyler, Jasper Department of Chemical Engineering

Co-Principal Investigators

Meg Chadsey, Washington Sea Grant

Jonathan Davis, Hood Canal Mariculture

Eli Wheat, University of Washington, Program on the Environment


Researchers are exploring the possibility of using kelp aquaculture to produce drop-in transportation fuels and high-value chemicals (hydrocarbons). They will use catalytic hydrothermal liquefaction to maximize the production of hydrocarbons and determine the economic and environmental feasibility of this process. Conventional processes require the kelp to be dried before being converted to biofuel, but this method uses wet kelp and therefore will have lower energy demands. On the outreach side, the research team will offer an intensive summer course to UW students that combines field and classroom instruction to provide a comprehensive look at kelp aquaculture and product development.