Oil: Grow Some?

You may or may not know this, but oil does not come from long decayed dinosaurs — though it once did come from almost every last whale on earth. It came, mostly, from algae — billions of tons of the stuff, brewed up in shallow, tropical, heat warmed seas and sunk, and compressed and decayed and stored away with its load of CO2 forever, until Manling waved his magic wand and started sucking it out of the great beds and burning it, releasing the CO2 back into the atmosphere.

So what about using algae again, only not waiting for the million year compression cycle? Grow it, refine it, burn it, grow it, refine it…. How does this help? Algae, grown today, will suck CO2 out of the air; burned tomorrow it will release it back; grow some more, get some more, etc. How it helps is that it lessens, or stops, release of CO2 that’s been in the vaults for all these eons, only releasing what was captured yesterday. Like catch and release fishing.

Not a few start-up companies are beginning to bet significant dollars that there is something in this dream.

Raw algae can be processed to make biocrude, the renewable equivalent of petroleum, and refined to make gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and chemical feedstocks for plastics and drugs. Indeed, it can be processed at existing oil refineries to make just about anything that can be made from crude oil.

Algae Crude

Even from MIT this article seems a little bouyant, frothy as it were. The first obvious question is what forseeable events might be generated by man-made algae fields the size of Florida? What does genetic engineering do to algae in the wild — destructive to fish and other water creatures in certain doses? What if, what if? Of course we may have to do a deal with the devil sooner rather than later, just to keep the unimaginable that way. But if so, let’s get our eyes and brains as wide open as possible beforehand.

Comments are closed.