Biogenic Process for Converting Propellants and Energetics to Usable Byproducts (Such as Biofuel)

W. Porubsky, D. Vail, P. Sanchez, P. Sheehan, E. Cooke, K. Singer, S. Dorsey
Algenol Biotech LLC, Florida, United States

Keywords: Demilitarization, Biofuel, Algae, Energy, M6-propellant

Algenol Biotech is teaming with U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (“ARDEC”) and Leidos to develop a platform technology to convert expired propellant materials to biofuels. With over 1 million M119 projectiles containing 26 thousand short tons of M6 propellant awaiting disposal, an alternative to traditional disposal of open burning or simple destruction is needed. To replace this process, a series of chemical treatments have been investigated by ARDEC to convert propellant materials into useful energy solutions while simultaneously reducing the environmental effects of the demilitarization. The treatment is a hydrolysis reaction to break down the nitrocellulose binder into a caustic solution of nitrate and nitrite ions. Following pH neutralization, the ion-rich hydrolysate is used in a proprietary process to generate biofuels. Algenol’s Direct to Ethanol® process relies on cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) for producing ethanol with residual biomass funneled to a biocrude co-product3. The cyanobacteria are cultivated in photobioreactors and supplied hydrolyzed propellant (M6) as the nitrogen source fueling production of ethanol and bio-based fuels with a low carbon footprint4,5. Here, we present an overview of Algenol’s technology, the integration of ARDEC’s propellant hydrolysis feed, and provide examples of ethanol and biomass production in cultures fed hydrolyzed propellant.