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New genetically-engineered cyanobacterium produces and secretes renewable fuels without the middleman, biomass  (Source:
Genetically-engineered cyanobacterium eliminates biomass step to produce ready-to-use diesel fuel or ethanol

A biotechnology company in Massachusetts has created a genetically engineered organism capable of producing diesel fuel or ethanol, which can be used to run cars and jet engines. 

Joule Unlimited, a Cambridge-based producer of alternative energy technologies that was founded in 2007, developed a genetically engineered organism called a cyanobacterium, which uses water, sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce and secrete renewable fuels.  

Until now, researchers have created fuel from solar energy through the use of corn and algae. But creating ethanol from corn or extracting fuel from algae on a large scale can be costly due to biomass. The process consists of having to grow tons of algae or corn, harvest it and destroy it in order to extract the fuel, which must then be treated before it can be used. 

But according to biologist Dan Robertson, Joule Unlimited's top scientist, the cyanobacterium eliminates biomass from the equation when producing renewable fuels. The organism is genetically engineered to secrete a "completed product," which is identical to ethanol or diesel fuel. In addition, it is not destroyed in the process of producing these fuels, and can continuously create more. The cyanobacterium used is "found everywhere" and less complex than algae, making it easier to genetically manipulate.  

Joule Unlimited claims that the cyanobacterium can create 15,000 gallons of diesel full per acre annually. Also, the company says it can do this at $30 a barrel. The plan is to build facilities close to power plants so that their cyanobacteria can consume waste carbon dioxide, making the organism an environmentally friendly addition to the oil industry. 

In addition, the cyanobacteria are housed in flat, solar panel-like bioreactors with grooved, thin panels for both light absorption and fuel collection. The bioreactors are modules that allow for the building of arrays as small or large "as land allows" at facilities.

"We make some lofty claims, all of which we believe, all which we've validated, all of which we've shown to investors," said Joule Chief Executive Bill Sims. "If we're half right, this revolutionizes the world's largest industry, which is the oil and gas industry. And if we're right, there's no reason why this technology can't change the world."  

While Joule Unlimited seems confident in its new organism, others aren't so sure that the new fuel-producing cyanobacterium will work. For example, National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientist Phillip Pienkos calculated the information from Joule's paper on the study, and said that eliminating the biomass step creates problems when recovering the fuel. Specifically, it leaves small amounts of fuel in relatively large amount of water producing a "sheen." He believes the company will have problems recovering large amounts of fuel efficiently

"I think they're trading one set of problems for another," said Pienkos. 

But Robertson doesn't seem to agree with Pienkos' criticism. In fact, Robertson described a day in the future when he will own a Ferrari and fill its tank with Joule fuel. He plans to prove all naysayers wrong when he hits the gas pedal on his new vehicle, showing how well it runs on Joule's fuel.  

"I wasn't kidding about the Ferrari," said Robertson. 

Sims feels the same way about Joule's new organism, suggesting that critics are too closed-minded and behind the times to accept such technology yet. 

"There's always skeptics for breakthrough technologies," said Sims. "And they can ride home on their horse and use their abacus to calculate their checkbook balance."

Joule Unlimited plans to begin building a 10-acre demonstration facility this year, and hopes to be operating commercially as soon as two years. 

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By Redwin on 2/28/2011 1:02:04 PM , Rating: 4
At the risk of being lumped into his "horse and abacus" crowd (lol) I have to say I'll be more excited when you tell me where I can fill my car up with it for significantly less than gas with no negative repercussions for my engine.

The criticism that he'll be left with a large quantity of water and a sheen of fuel on it sounds pretty significant to me. It seems they brush it off without much explanation of the solution, but if separating diesel and water was such a simple task, wouldn't fuel spills would be less of a problem? =P

RE: ehh...
By therealnickdanger on 2/28/2011 1:09:23 PM , Rating: 2
I'll be more excited when you tell me where I can fill my car up with it

Forget that. Tell me where I can get some of this bacteria so I can make my own fuel at home out of my trash! :)

RE: ehh...
By surt on 2/28/2011 1:21:14 PM , Rating: 1
I don't think that will work out so well. At 15K gallons per acre / year, one fully used acre is only producing enough (auto only!) fuel for about 15-20 people. And most people at home have less than a quarter acre of open land, which means that you'd have to have a plant covering somewhere between 1/5 and 1/3 of your total yard space to produce your fuel for the year. You'd almost certainly be happier covering every inch of your roof with solar panels and buying a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle.

RE: ehh...
By Manch on 2/28/2011 1:53:20 PM , Rating: 3
You'd almost certainly be happier covering every inch of your roof with solar panels and buying a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle.

Not true, this would eliminate my yard, and my need to mow the lawn, and support my drag racing habit! Can't use a hybrid for that!

RE: ehh...
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 2:20:14 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah a lot of performance guys have been adopting E85 due to 12-13:1 compression ratios they can easily run with it.

RE: ehh...
By Manch on 2/28/2011 2:39:38 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I'm not sure how that would work for my setup. Shopping for a built short block right now. I'm running a whipple HO kit on a 3V 4.6. Looking to up it to 16PSI so I'm keeping my compression at around 8.9.

RE: ehh...
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 2:51:12 PM , Rating: 2
If you run E85, it also has a cooling effect which lets you run more boost without detonation. Or add more compression. Then add meth injection for even more boost.

From what I read from the FI guys, they love E85. Provided you have the wallet to support it. Essentially race gas for cheap. Granted your taxes are currently paying to subsidize it.

A guy here in town is running a 454 LSX block at about 10.5:1. He's about to slap a F1C on top of it along with his existing 400 shot of nitrous. Bottom end is built to handle 2000 hp. And he's not running E85 either.

RE: ehh...
By Manch on 2/28/2011 3:33:47 PM , Rating: 2
I just found out I have orders to Norway, so I need to stay on pump gas. Plus the 4.6 3V motors love boost as long as the compression stays low enough. 8.9 seems to be the magic number for whipples on my engine. Turbo setup I'd probably go lower. I may do meth for cooling tho. I'm trying to keep my car street/strip.

RE: ehh...
By Alexvrb on 2/28/2011 8:46:22 PM , Rating: 2
E85 is less prone to preignition so yeah, more compression, more boost, both, whatever. But be aware that it has less volumetric energy, so you need to spray more of it to get the same power. So might need to upsize injectors to get the most of it.

Side note: LSX racing blocks are awesome.

RE: ehh...
By BioHazardous on 2/28/2011 2:31:51 PM , Rating: 5
By comparison, 1 acre of corn used to produce ethanol yields about 350 gallons of ethanol. When you factor in fuel used to manage the land and harvest the corn, it's an obvious losing proposition.

Soybeans at their best produce 100 gallons of diesel per acre, and obviously worse than corn no matter how you look at it.

Theoretical yields from algae are upwards of 5,000 gallons of diesel per acre.

So we can conclude that cyanobacteria if they can produce 15k gallons per acre, they would be considerably better than the alternatives our government continues to waste money on to subsidize. (not saying algae is a waste, it's still a much better option than corn and soybeans).

It's a step in the right direction IMO and a great advancement/technology.

RE: ehh...
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 2:52:39 PM , Rating: 2
Good numbers and agreed.

If the administration actually focused on a real solution like this, I might actually give them some applause. But it won't happen so my hands will stay silent.

RE: ehh...
By CowKing on 3/4/2011 8:37:08 PM , Rating: 2
....they would be considerably better than the alternatives our government continues to waste money on to subsidize

Actually, they waste more money on fossil fuels than other alternatives.

You also forgot about switchgrass.

RE: ehh...
By Solandri on 2/28/2011 5:14:58 PM , Rating: 2
At 15K gallons per acre / year, one fully used acre is only producing enough (auto only!) fuel for about 15-20 people. [...] You'd almost certainly be happier covering every inch of your roof with solar panels and buying a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle.

15k gal * 3.78 l/gal * 35.86 MJ/l = 2.03 million MJ per acre-year

Figure solar generates 130 Watts peak per m^2, 75 Watts average for 12 hr/day. That's 1183 MJ per year per m^2.

1 acre is 4047 m^2, so per acre solar can capture 4.78 million MJ per acre-year. So a bit better than 2x as much energy captured as the biofuel process. ~8x if you take into account ICE motor vs. electric motor efficiency.

It will however cost you nearly $1 million to cover an acre with solar panels at current market prices. And biofuel lets you store energy chemically for months if not years at little cost. Batteries for storing electrical energy are practically limited to a few days storage at most (beyond that, weight and cost of battery capacity become an issue).

From a 2-car home's perspective, two cars driven 15k miles each at 25 mpg will consume 1200 gallons per year. At 15k gallons per acre, you can do that in 0.08 acres (324 m^2).

You should be able to collect enough solar energy for similar vehicle use with just 324*(2.03/4.78)*(25%/95%) = 36 m^2 of solar panels, which should cost you less than $10k.

From a best of both worlds perspective, it would seem solar would be the best home choice. Use it to top off your 30-mile electric range plug-in hybrid battery (or rather, to supplement commercial electrical use during the day, and taking it back at night to charge your battery). Ignoring of course the cost of hybrid batteries (i.e. assuming they get cheap enough we don't have to subsidize them). If the biofuel is financially viable, you could use it to fill up the gas tank of your hybrid, for use in the occasion long trip.

RE: ehh...
By cpeter38 on 3/4/2011 2:01:52 PM , Rating: 2
You have missed several factors in your analysis. True solar/electric vehicle cost in the sunny Southern US would be about $22,500 up front and $1,280 per year. New Yorkers would pay about $35,000 up front and $1,280 per year. See below for details.

If you make the assumptions that the family lives in the Nevada or Southern California area, your solar panel numbers are reasonably accurate for cost, efficiency and size for the energy content you specified. However, you missed several energy conversion processes, support equipment, and ongoing maintenance costs. In order to be able to accurately predict the cost and energy, you need to start at the wheels and work backwards.

Calculations and assumptions
1200 gal gas per year x* 121 MJ/gal x .25% efficiency = 36300 MJ per year (at the wheels)

Energy required can be approximated at 100 MJ/day (at the wheels)

Very optimistic assumptions are as follows:
Electric Motor: efficiency = 95%, cost included in the car
No auxiliary power used (forget about air conditioning, heating and radio - it makes the car a whole lot cheaper too)
Vehicle battery charger: efficiency = 95%, cost included in the car
Home inverter: efficiency = 95%, cost = $5,000
Home battery bank charger and controller: efficiency = 95%, cost included in inverter
Battery bank: Ignore self discharge losses, cost = $5,000 - see below
Wiring: Ignore resistance losses, pretend it is free
Mounting/positioning for solar panels, connectors, and maintenance costs: pretend there is no initial or operational costs
Solar panel: 36 m^2 /.95(motor) /.95(car battery) /.95 (inverter) /.95 (battery storage) = 44.2 m^2, cost = $12,500

If the family in question lives in Michigan, Washington state, New York, etc. they will need almost double the number of panels. See for daily solar energy map of the US.

Sizing Details
36300 MJ/yr /.95(motor) /.95(car battery) /.95 (inverter) /.95 (battery storage) x yr/365 days kWhr/3.6 MJ = 33.9 kWhr per day.

Typical sizing rules of thumb would require use of an inverter/battery charging system with a peak power rating of 5 kW. $5,000 would be a fantastic price for an inverter that could do this at 95% efficiency and last 20-25 years.

If you make the assumption that the cars can be charged over 12 hours per day, you will need to charge at about 2.8 kw per hour. This would require a minimum battery bank of at least 16 L16 6V 370 ah storage batteries. That is another $5,000 and the best warranty in the business is 2 yrs full replacement with an additional 5 yrs pro-rated. This is hard use and the average lifetime for this level of use is about 5 years. If you assume a 40% warranty return at EOL, the ongoing cost is about $600 per year.

How does this all come together? I think that a good way of estimating the costs and benefits would be to forecast them over a long period of time. I have made a number of highly optimistic assumptions above and I will add 3 more. Lets assume that the solar panel installation and the Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) last 25 years. Lets also assume that in 25 years the battery pack will need to be replaced twice at a cost of $10,000 per replacement.

What is the total cost for the energy and equipment in Nevada?

$12,500 (solar panels) + $5,000 (home inverter/charger) + $17,000 (initial + ongoing battery bank) + $20,000 (BEV battery pack) = $54,500. That comes out to $22,500 up front and $1,280 per year in ongoing costs!!!

If you live in upstate NY, add another $12,500 in up front solar panel cost to make up for the lack of sun.

RE: ehh...
By dgingeri on 2/28/2011 1:22:56 PM , Rating: 3
Well, in a production facility like that, they'd probably have a big spinning mechanism that can force them to separate and extract the fuel pretty easily through skimming. I've seen an oil spill cleanup tool that could do that, but it required sitting it in a boat. The big difference between a production facility and a fuel spill is that the production facility would be entirely contained and controlled, which is not the case with a fuel spill.

RE: ehh...
By MozeeToby on 2/28/2011 2:03:45 PM , Rating: 5
Controlled environment vs an uncontrolled one. Lets say you have a process than can remove 50% of the oil in 1000 gallons of water each minute. That doesn't work at all in the ocean, the treated water still has half the oil in it and the amount of water you need to treat is huge, you'll never keep up.

Now considering the same piece of equipment removing oil from a 1 million gallon bioreactor. You're only treating 1% of the water per minute, effectively removing .5% of the oil per minute. But, the treated water can go right back into the tank, so the missed oil can be removed the next time. Eventually you hit an equilibrium such that your bacteria are producing at the same rate your filter is removing. As long as the concentration of oil in the water is below the toxic threashold for the bacteria (and you can lower the concentration by installing more oil extractors) you're fine.

RE: ehh...
By Redwin on 3/1/2011 10:35:43 AM , Rating: 2
You're of course right! I was being a little hyperbolic, getting fuel out of a bioreactor is obviously not the same problem as cleaning up an oil spill heh :)

Still, I'd like to see how much energy it's gunna take to run those pumps and filters versus how much fuel they are collecting off the sheen. I know its perfectly POSSIBLE to separate the fuel from the water (as did the skeptical scientist in the article, I'm sure) the real question is can it be done in an energy-positive and relatively clean way?

If it can, then I'll be the first in line to fill up on it, apologizing to this guy the whole way; but they seem awfully light on details about that aspect of their process.

I like this
By dgingeri on 2/28/2011 1:19:05 PM , Rating: 5
I can't wait for the day when we can give a big, fat middle finger to Iran and Venezuela and tell them the world doesn't need their oil anymore. :)

RE: I like this
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 2:15:26 PM , Rating: 3
Or you educate yourself and realize that oil is bought on the open market and it doesn't matter where it comes from. Neither country give us an insanely significant portion of our oil.

And we could do that today by drilling here in the states to replace the amount of oil we end up getting from them. They just discovered a massive supply of oil in Colorado (I believe it was) which gives us the largest reserves in the world. But I seriously doubt we're going to start drilling it.

The problem isn't a lack of oil. The problem is a lack of will by our current government to let us drill and refine oil. Even if we drilled for it here, we have no new refining capacity planned which means we have to ship it elsewhere to be refined and then have it shipped back to us. That raises the price of fuel for us. We need not only more drilling but more refining capacity if we want to keep energy costs under control.

RE: I like this
By dgingeri on 2/28/2011 2:25:44 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, but those countries have been such a PITA, and I prefer to just think of giving them the finger, however it happens. :)

I heard about the reserves here in Colorado, and I heard that it was the Interior Secretary, from this state, that chose to block off drilling here, costing us several thousand jobs. Yeah, what a great guy.

RE: I like this
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 2:54:21 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not saying I don't want to bankrupt them. Just stating the facts.

And yeah, they're showing how much they care about improving the economy.

During the 2008 election Obama said to judge him not on what he says, but what he does. Just too bad the drones out there and mainstream media have yet to do so.

RE: I like this
By dgingeri on 2/28/2011 3:40:47 PM , Rating: 2
There's a reason I have a "Sorry Yet?" on the back of my car. :)

RE: I like this
By CowKing on 3/4/2011 8:20:42 PM , Rating: 2
Better than the alternative. *cough*Sarah Palin*cough*

RE: I like this
By edge929 on 2/28/2011 4:01:02 PM , Rating: 2
Re: Colorado "oil"
Unless some fantastic new method of extraction has been developed since the "discovery" of the oil shale, I doubt this will be the godsend we want it to be. More energy has to be used to extract the oil than can be obtained from the oil via combustion.

RE: I like this
By Manch on 3/1/2011 10:24:43 AM , Rating: 2
Actually there is, an that's why the oil shale under colorado and the finds in Texas and the midwest are such a big deal now. They're using a modified fracturing technique. Similar to the process they use in the North east to get at the gas lock in the ground. The amount of pemits requested to get at these deposits has sky rocketed since they proved it could be extracted at a reasonable cost. I'll find the link and post it.

RE: I like this
By FITCamaro on 3/1/2011 11:47:35 PM , Rating: 2
Canada has been selling us oil they've extracted from oil shale for the past several years.

RE: I like this
By Solandri on 2/28/2011 5:36:14 PM , Rating: 2
The problem isn't a lack of oil. The problem is a lack of will by our current government to let us drill and refine oil.

I agree our government is extremely reluctant to allow drilling for more oil, but there's more to it than that. Most of the "easy" oil in the U.S. has already been tapped. The remaining oil is harder and thus more costly to extract. As long as foreign oil producers are willing to sell their oil for less than it would cost to extract domestic oil, we will import it rather than tap the more expensive domestic supplies.*

There's also an inertia effect too. If oil prices spike, it takes a while for more costly domestic oil production to get underway. Usually this domestic production doesn't happen because recent oil price spikes have been relatively short-lived. If they were to stay at $100/bbl (I believe that's the price point) for an extended period of time, all the shale oil in the U.S. and Canada becomes viable to extract. It would be enough to make us the #1 oil producer in the world. (Though not the most efficient - most of the money spent here would go into extraction equipment, labor, and refining, with little profit. Most of the money spent on Middle Eastern oil is profit which they use to build golf courses and mega-luxury hotels.)

RE: I like this
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 11:20:38 PM , Rating: 2
Canada has been extracting oil from oil shale for a few years now. That's why they're one of our biggest suppliers.

RE: I like this
By ynot56 on 3/1/2011 1:32:41 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, Canada produces from tar sands, not oil shale.

Tar sands are FAR easier to produce than oil shale and Canada has a whole heck of a lot of tar sands.

RE: I like this
By ynot56 on 3/1/2011 1:44:36 PM , Rating: 2
There is no problem with refinery capacity in the US, this is a right wing canard.

It is absolutely true that no new refinery has been built in what, 30-40 years.

It is true that many have shut down.

It is not true that our refinery capacity (in terms or barrles per day) is decreasing, in fact it is 25% higher today than 25 years ago.

Plants have been upgraded and refit. Their nameplate capacity is far higher than when built (sometimes up to 10x).

The consolidation that has occured is a natural result of capitalism at work, not some government conspiracy to reduce refinery capacity in the US. If you can save money by consolidating refineries and improving production, it will happen.

RE: I like this
By US56 on 3/1/2011 1:48:39 AM , Rating: 1
We could be well on our way right now today by producing methanol as a substitute for gasoline. Methanol is superior to both gasoline and ethanol as a motor fuel. While the energy storage density is a little lower than ethanol, engines optimized for the use of methanol will more than compensate with a higher efficiency of conversion of the stored energy content of the fuel to mechanical work which has given methanol the advantage as a racing fuel and fuel additive for many years. Methanol can be produced from any source of cellulose using a well known industrial process which was patented more than 100 years ago. The source material can be green waste, trash, plastics which are not economical to recycle into new plastic material, forest product waste material, etc. Instead of making ethanol from the relatively small amount of sugar in corn kernels, the corn stalks, leaves, husks, and cobs left over from food processing can produce many times the energy content of the ethanol produced from the corn kernels of the very same plants. The conversion factor is approximately 60 mass units of methanol for 100 mass units of cellulose bearing waste material although water is required for the process so the mass of the finished product is not entirely from cellulose. The waste products are fly ash and heat. The heat is normally used for co-generation of electricity so the process is energy self-supporting other than for start up requirements. The fly ash can be used in the production of concrete or asphalt paving materials. The U.S. has huge sources of cellulose which are not currently exploited or are underutilized. If gasoline were replaced in a significant proportion by M85 or M100 (feasible in warmer climates or summer in most U.S. locations) then petroleum resources could be redirected to producing proportionately more diesel and kerosene based fuels such as turbine fuel. The world price of petroleum should be significantly impacted by reducing the very significant demand in the U.S. for gasoline. The use of methanol as a motor fuel would significantly improve the U.S. balance of payments and an entire new industry would be created greatly benefiting employment, investment, and the fiscal position of federal, state, and local governments. The use of methanol as a substitute for gasoline would be complementary to biofuel production as a substitute for diesel and kerosene based fuels. Like other alternate energy strategies there seems to be a inexplicable lack of awareness to the potential of methanol as a motor fuel. It has to be something more than just entrenched interests working against competition.

RE: I like this
By Kary on 3/1/2011 1:04:41 PM , Rating: 2
I think the argument I always heard against methanol was that it was poisonous....though...I'm thinking chugging gasoline is a bad way to go, too.

OH, and it combines readily with water to make it poisonous, too.

RE: I like this
By US56 on 3/2/2011 2:45:02 AM , Rating: 2
It's interesting that the main argument that the corn ethanol lobby has against methanol is that methanol is toxic. We're talking about a motor fuel, not a beverage. Methanol is used to denature ethyl alcohol. It is inevitable that some ignore the label or can't read and will take a swig of denatured alcohol. If methanol were all that dangerous it would not be used for that application. As for contamination of potable water, I believe you may be confusing methanol with MTBE. Even after gasoline retailers were forced to spend many millions of dollars in California replacing potentially leaky steel gasoline storage tanks with expensive fiberglass tanks enough MTBE leaked into the environment to render many potable water wells which were maintained for reserve or emergency water supplies unusable. Methanol is readily soluble in water and quickly oxidizes with exposure to air into CO2 + H2O. Decontamination is easily accomplished by aeration as for any volatile solvent in water. There is always some methanol vapor released to the atmosphere anyway since methanol is a natural metabolic product of certain bacteria. The fact that methanol is readily soluble gives it the same advantage for fire safety as ethanol. Methanol fires are easily controlled with water. In that respect, methanol is also a safer motor fuel than gasoline. That, and the performance advantages are the primary reasons "Indy" cars were switched to methanol in the nineteen sixties and continued on methanol until they switched to ethanol which had to be the result of some sort of marketing arrangement for corn ethanol fuel rather than for technical reasons.

15000 gal/yr/acre?
By JeffCos on 2/28/2011 1:33:11 PM , Rating: 1
So you need an acre of land and all you get is 41 gallons a day? The most readily available data I found was from 2004 and we used 140billion gal of gas that year. It's definitely gone up since then. Which means we'd need just about 15.5k square miles of this stuff to fuel America for a year. Someone should check my math though.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 2:22:37 PM , Rating: 2
Shit most people could just grow it in their back yard to meet their fuel needs. Even with my GTO, my commute barely uses more than a gallon a day. So if I could "grow" 1 gallon of E85 every day, it'd be perfect.

Definitely gonna look at investing in these guys.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By Schrag4 on 2/28/2011 2:32:52 PM , Rating: 2
My math came out to 14.6k, not sure who's off but we're close. That's an area a little bigger than 1/6th the size of Kansas.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By dgingeri on 2/28/2011 2:52:54 PM , Rating: 2
Well, we could use desert areas like New Mexico and parts of California for much of it, and there would be very little ecological impact because of the lack of life in the desert. (Yes, I know there are a lot of things living in the desert, but for less than in forested areas or grasslands.) Congress would still find a way to block building these facilities, though.

The big problem would be the cost of building and maintaining the facilities. It would cost a lot more than $30 per barrel just because of the building costs where we would have to build them.

I like the idea of putting a small setup in a backyard, (I don't have a backyard since I live in an apartment now.) but my commute takes about 3 gallons of gas per day, and that doesn't include my various trips down to see my parents (a full tank of gas there) and to the store for grocery shopping.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 2:55:37 PM , Rating: 2
So essentially its 100% feasible.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By Motoman on 2/28/2011 3:04:26 PM , Rating: 2
Don't get me wrong...I am quite keen to learn more about this tech and hopefully see it prove successful...

...but I would have to ask how feasible it would be to build bio-reactors and whatnot that cover 1/6 the land area of KS from a financial perspective. We ain't exactly rollin' in it right now...

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 3:15:53 PM , Rating: 3
Well we sure seem to be "rolling in it" enough to give billions to solar and wind.

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 3/1/2011 8:24:00 AM , Rating: 2
It's never what it costs. It's always what it makes.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By edge929 on 2/28/2011 2:53:00 PM , Rating: 3
From wikipedia, though no year is explicitly stated the paragraph implies 2010: "U.S. oil consumption is approximately 21,000,000 barrels per day"

Doing the math:
21,000,000 x 365 = 7,665,000,000 barrels per year
1 Oil barrel = 42 US gallons (34.9723 imp gal; 158.9873 L)
42 x 7,665,000,000 = 321,930,000,000 gallons per year
321,930,000,000 / 15,000 (from article) = 21,462,000 acres of land needed
640 acres = 1 square mile
21,462,000 / 640 = 33,534 square miles needed (a little smaller than the size of Indiana)

Just over double your 2004 result.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 2:56:36 PM , Rating: 3
Even this number is completely feasible given the size of the US as a whole.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By dgingeri on 2/28/2011 3:37:55 PM , Rating: 2
You used oil consumption. only about 3/4 of our oil consumption is uesd for fuel, and on top of that, 3 barrels of oil produces about 1 barrel of gasoline or about 1.3 barrels of diesel fuel. So, on average, divide your results by 3 to get the actual results.

in other words, about 11,200 square miles.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By edge929 on 2/28/2011 4:15:21 PM , Rating: 2
If 3 barrels of oil makes 1 barrel of gas, then you would multiply my results by 3. I'll assume you meant the opposite based on your other comments.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By wiz220 on 2/28/2011 6:44:31 PM , Rating: 2
Actually I think he's right, you would divide by three IF you were only talking about gasoline usage, which is what the article was about. It looks like this product is specifically meant to be used as a gasoline/diesel substitute.

The reason is that if we use a certain number of barrels of oil per day then our gasoline usage would be directly related to it and we could only be using whatever gasoline we got from that oil, so roughly 1/3rd. Therefore the land necessary would be based on gasoline usage, not overall oil usage.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By SPOOFE on 2/28/2011 7:42:58 PM , Rating: 2
No, he's assuming the statements in the article are correct: That the process results in fuel right off the bat, no further processing needed. In other words, you don't need 3X the cyanobacteria product for one unit of actual fuel.

Conversely, the processing of oil nets a 3:1 oil/gasoline ratio, meaning you need 3X more "barrels of oil" to equate to the same volume of fuel claimed to be produced by the bacteria. Again, assuming the claims are accurate.

RE: 15000 gal/yr/acre?
By rvd2008 on 2/28/2011 3:47:22 PM , Rating: 2
guys in front of you are better at math.

it is gas/diesel we put in our cars, not oil
so start with gasoline consumption instead
(2011 estimated at 9.12 millions of barrels a day)

Vgas = 9.12 * 42 * 365 * 10^6 ~ 140 * 10^9 Gal/year
Area = 140 * 10^9 / (15 * 10^3) ~ 9 mil acres ~ 14000 sq miles

which is 70 miles by 200 miles rectangle

This could be revolutionary
By vol7ron on 2/28/2011 1:00:34 PM , Rating: 2
So start buying back gas guzzlers?

Curious if the process needs fresh water, or if it could work with sea water.

RE: This could be revolutionary
By kattanna on 2/28/2011 1:12:12 PM , Rating: 2
i'd like to see it work with both.

RE: This could be revolutionary
By dgingeri on 2/28/2011 1:16:02 PM , Rating: 2
Probably not seawater, but likely non-potable water would be usable, like untreated rainwater or waste water from a sewage treatment plant.

RE: This could be revolutionary
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 2:10:55 PM , Rating: 3
I doubt the current government will allow this to get big. They'll find some excuse. Can't have it threatening their electric desires.

If they could produce E85 and diesel for $30 a barrel no one would EVER buy an electric car.

The only thing this needs is water and space. Solar and wind need land too. Just put these production centers near the coast with a distillation plant fueled with power from a coal power plant. The distillation plant converts the water to fresh water (assuming the bacteria can't use salt water), then the bacteria eat up the carbon dioxide and give us fuel.

But this kind of thing would create far too many jobs for Obama to let it happen.

RE: This could be revolutionary
By rvd2008 on 2/28/2011 3:39:52 PM , Rating: 1
you should stop blaming government for everything, get off cloud nine, or BOTH

RE: This could be revolutionary
By SPOOFE on 2/28/2011 7:59:19 PM , Rating: 2
Who's blaming who for everything? The government bowed to pressure from the corn lobby to give them YET ANOTHER massive subsidy, even though corn is a lousy choice for bio-fuel. It's a simple matter of pattern recognition; government is loathe to admit fault and change track, even through dramatic administration shifts.

By espaghetti on 2/28/2011 1:25:10 PM , Rating: 2
I was against ethanol from the beginning because burning the world's food supply for fuel is stupid .
I'm not a fan of the reduced gas mileage or the increased emissions, but if it's going to cost a third of what I'm paying now, I'm in.

By rika13 on 2/28/2011 1:31:46 PM , Rating: 2
they can also do diesel, which provides better emissions and mileage than gas due to higher energy density

diesel got a bad rap as a fuel in the 80's, but the new stuff is pretty good and cars are made for it, just not sold in anymore in america until now

By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 2:19:28 PM , Rating: 2
E85 is a good fuel. The problem was what it cost to produce, what it was made from, and the subsidies to make it viable.

If every car started using E85, compression ratios would go up to 12:1-13:1 to negate some of the efficiency loss. But at $30 a barrel, the lower mileage wouldn't be as big a deal.

The only problem would be all the lawn mowers and such out there that would have to be rebuilt or replaced to handle E85.

By MozeeToby on 2/28/2011 3:04:49 PM , Rating: 2
All it will release on burning is CO2, which will be the exact same carbon that it pulled out of the air on production. It's basically a wash. Ethanol from food is stupid but that doesn't mean that all ethanol production is, waste cellulose is certainly an option as it is a byproduct of food production.

By Ammohunt on 2/28/11, Rating: 0
RE: Ok
By FITCamaro on 2/28/2011 3:18:27 PM , Rating: 3
Really? That's your argument against this?

RE: Ok
By Ammohunt on 3/3/2011 2:21:34 PM , Rating: 1
Simple question; forgive me for my lack of trust in mankind.

RE: Ok
By Iketh on 2/28/2011 11:12:48 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Ok
By Kary on 3/1/2011 1:01:21 PM , Rating: 2
Naaa, the plan is to get it into the oceans where BP will use their expertise to make BILLIONS off of selling us the "free" fuel!

Oh well.
By mikeyD95125 on 3/1/2011 2:06:35 AM , Rating: 4
Any article title that is misread as 'Orgasm Secrets' is bound let you down.

By undummy on 3/2/2011 12:53:44 AM , Rating: 2
And then these bacteria morph into a super-fuel-producer, leak into the environment, and turn the planet into an ocean of fuel.

RE: oops
By SnakeBlitzken on 3/2/2011 9:24:27 AM , Rating: 2
The utter irony. We starve to death in world full of oil.

Really though, can someone guarantee that this cyano can't survive in the wild?

By lagomorpha on 2/28/2011 3:41:10 PM , Rating: 1
I wasn't aware Ferrari made a diesel. Maybe he was thinking of a Lamborghini tractor?

Big Oil
By Pessimism on 3/1/2011 10:16:23 AM , Rating: 1
These guys don't stand a chance. Every time someone comes close to an alternative for dino fuel, they get silenced and mysteriously disappear from the face of the earth. The oil barons will make sure of it.

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher

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