Vastari’s Tech Rants

The insane recommendations of a maniac.

Renewable oil source found!

While not strictly a gadget, this new petrol source does hold a lot of promise. A man named Makoto Watanabe, from Japan, has found a species of algae that “sweats” crude oil.

Professor Watanabe’s vision arises from the extraordinary properties of the Botryococcus braunii algae: give the microscopic green strands enough light – and plenty of carbon dioxide – and they excrete oil. The tiny globules of oil that form on the surface of the algae can be easily harvested and then refined using the same “cracking” technologies with which the oil industry now converts crude into everything from jet fuel to plastics.

While he’s not sure if it’s possible yet to efficiently create enough oil to power the whole of Japan, let alone the world, Watanabe is hopeful. Compared to Rapeseed, which can produce about 1.2 tonnes of oil equivalent, this algae can theoretically produce between 50 and 60 tonnes on the same plot of land. The main problem however, is costs. It would cost billions to maintain fields of the stuff large enough to provide a decent amount of oil. You’d need a country with huge plots of well irrigated land and cheap labour.

As an added bonus for the environmentalists, this algae is also Carbon negative, meaning that the amount of Carbon Dioxide given off when the oil is burned is less than the amount needed to stimulate oil sweating in the first place. Sounds promising.


June 26, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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