Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium

Research Focus Area : Algal Biodiesel

As is mandated in the Virginia Energy Plan, researchers at Old Dominion University, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Hampton University and James Madison University are exploring fuel production from biomass sources. Old Dominion University has taken a leading role in the biodiesel studies.

Biodiesel fuel is much like the diesel fuel derived from petroleum, but this renewable fuel is produced from oily biomass such as soybeans, as well as from waste oils.

Studies have shown that algae have significantly more oil content than soybeans and are a promising biomass source for biodiesel.



Research with algal biomass includes:

  • Identifying Virginia waters with high algal biomass and productivity.
  • Performing molecular studies on algae to better understand their potential for conversion to biodiesel fuel.
  • Growing indigenous algal species best suited for biodiesel production.
  • Developing and testing efficient methods for concentrating algal biomass and collecting it.
  • Comparing efficiencies of biodiesel production from various water types.
  • Culturing algae in open tanks and enclosed containers.
  • Constructing a pilot-scale biodiesel reactor to produce liquid fuel.
  • Exploring environmentally friendly ways to produce algal biomass while removing harmful nutrients from waste water effluent and removing the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from power plant plumes.
  • Performing diesel engine combustion tests to improve the reliability and efficiency of biodiesel fuels.


Biodiesel fuel also can be produced from used cooking oil from restaurants. ODU engineers have built a small reactor to investigate whether the production of biodiesel fuel from the used oil is environmentally sound and economically viable.



VCERC Expertise Guide- Biodiesel

Ates Akyurtlu, HU Alternative Energy Resources
Jale Akyurtlu, HU Chemical Reactor Modeling
Robert L. Ash, ODU Thermophysics
Christopher G. Bachmann, JMU
Han P. Bao, ODU Biodiesel-Cooking Oil
Debbie Bronk, VIMS
Paul Bukaveckas, VCU Aquatic Ecology
Elizabeth Canuel, VIMS Marine Organic Geochemistry
Lisa Colosi, UVA Algae Cultivation Systems
Robert Davis, UVA Heterogeneous Catalysis
Rebecca Dickhut, VIMS
Andrew S. Gordon, ODU Microbiology
Patrick G. Hatcher, ODU
Executive Director
Dr. Sandeep Kumar, ODU
Chemical Engineer
Harold G. Marshall, ODU MarinePhytoplankton Ecology
Margaret Mulholland, ODU Biogeochemical Cycling
Gary S. Schafran, ODU Biogeochemical Processes
Mark White, UVA Economic Impact/Biofuels


Research Focus Areas: Biodiesel ~ Economic ~ Mapping ~ Wind