How Much Oil Do We Use?
The US, on average, uses approximately 20 million barrels of oil a day, which basically is about a quarter of the world’s oil supply resulting in 25% of the world’s carbon emissions.
With predictions of oil supplies being exhausted in the next forty years, demands on oil production are still being made. Three factors affect the demand for the need of oil: population increases, new ways that an oil resource can be utilized, and the need for oil to increase the standard of living.
Depending on the class of oil tanker, a ship can carry up to four million barrels of oil. The largest class is called the Ultra Large Crude Carrier or ULCC.
Microbes That Can Produce Biofuel and Petroluem Products
But, instead of exerting energy to import oil from other countries, what about just eliminating oil importation and developing a way to create crude oil on a microbial level?
Perhaps we can provide a crude oil substitute, a biofuel created by genetically altered bacteria. Imagine a “bug" or bacteria that can eat waste material and excrete crude oil! This is not science fiction- it is being done now. On top of that, it is also known as a carbon negative product, meaning that if this fuel is burned off, it emits less carbon product than was consumed. Compared to the combustion of regular fuel oil, this would mean less carbon released into the air.
LS9 is the name of the company that’s genetically converting regular bacteria such as a non-infectious strain of E.Coli and/or yeast into these biofuel creating wonders. This is a process where microbes consume feedstock, then convert intermediate fatty acids into the desired alternative petroleum product through the fermentation of the sugars.
The largest amount of biofuel created by these microbes at one time was 1,000 liters in one week. The machine that created this amount of biofuel takes up 40 square feet of floor.
This means it would take almost 6 square miles of land to produce the microbe produced crude oil to fill the largest oil tanker. Actually, it would be the amount land that would be needed to house the equipment used to create the microbe-produced biofuel.
Since the US consumes 143 million barrels of oil on a weekly basis, one would need a biofuel plant that covers 205 square miles.
Are you familiar with pond scum? You know that green gunk you see at the bottom of ponds or perhaps on the side of a fish tank which is an indicator that tells you it’s time to clean it? Well, it’s called algae, and it also has its uses in producing biofuels. A company called Soladiesel has devised a better way to produce biodiesel.
Apparently, other biofuel companies are experimenting with the same algae by trying to maximize sunlight to produce oil. However, Soladiesel, is actually depriving their algae cultures of sunlight, restricting the photosynthetic process. This activates another metabolic route to produce oil. This method yielded even greater amounts of oil than the photosynthetic path of producing oil. According to Soladiesel, feeding the algae sugar instead of sunlight results in higher production of biodiesel. And the feedstock consumed by the algae is plentiful at the experimental site. Apparently, algae can to do well at converting cellulose to sugar, and there is plenty of that go around.