Comparison of Algafuel and Fossil Fuel by Criteria
In this section we shall compare fuel refined from crude oil to biofuel from algae, using the following criteria;
Fuel Produced from Crude
The extraction of crude oil from subsea reservoirs is a hazardous process, often carried out in a hostile environment, although modern methods have become more efficient and safety of personnel is one of the various oil companies’ priorities.
Notwithstanding, personnel are still being injured with loss of life through accidents on the platforms and in travelling to and from the structures by helicopter.
Once the oil reaches the refinery it is processed into numerous fuels and liquids used in industry which produce obnoxious and odorous fumes being slightly offset by the removal of sulphur and lead from domestic fuels to achieve low sulphur diesel and lead-free petrol.
There are always liquid and gas leaks no matter how good the plant maintenance is, so personnel are exposed to danger of burns from acids or breathing problems from gas inhalation.
Transportation of diesel and petrol to the pumps by tanker usually causes few problems although the tankers do carry hazardous mixture notice plates.
The production and transportation of crude oil in seagoing oil tankers is closely monitored for air and water pollution. However, accidents do happen causing oil spills around our coastlines which result in total devastation the local environment, flora and fauna.
Oil is now being extracted from unconventional sources such as shale and oil sands. This process can emit four times as much greenhouse gas to the atmosphere as conventional oil production, as well as leaving behind massive tailings of gangue.
Finally, oil has allegedly been found to exist under the ice in the Arctic Ocean with Russia, Denmark, Canada and USA lining up to make a claim on it.
Hopefully public opinion will prevent the exploitation of oil from this area as exploration, production and transporting crude oil from under the melting ice can only spell an environmental disaster.
The price of petrol and diesel we pay at the pumps is governed by the cost of a barrel of crude on the open market. Today it is around $80 a barrel, which reflects a price of $7 a gallon in the UK and $2.3 a gallon in the USA, the difference in price being the tax or duty levied by the respective governments.
However because of other government measures, vehicles are becoming more efficient, due to build methods and engine development, so higher MPG figures are being achieved, which offsets the cost of the fuels.
Crude oil has taken millions of years to develop, yet within a hundred short years we have exploited it to such an extent that according to oil experts, the world's conventional crude oil production is due to peak this decade. (USA oil production peaked as long ago as 1970 with the UK North Sea oil production peaking in 1999).
Many experts predict that oil will run out completely by 2050 and this includes the world’s top four oil producing nations; Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the new fields under development in the South China Seas.
This will make the production of oil from unconventional sources and the polar regions previously mentioned a more lucrative proposition with its associated damage to the environment.
Or will it? Maybe the production of biofuels from algae will enable the crude oil to be eked out a little longer; or eventually replace it. We shall be able to decide after we have a look at how the algafuel meets the same criteria in the following section.