Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol (oil)

Mr. XC
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Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol (oil)

From http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article4133668.ece

If true, this could be very interesting.  In theory, this would create oil from waste products via a carbon negative process.  Perhaps the whole process from oil creation to burning the oil in a car will be carbon neutral.  It would be even more interesting if communities or individuals could produce their own petroleum.

Selected quotes from the original article:

Quote:
To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls "renewable petroleum". After that, he grins, "it’s a brave new world".


Quote:
The company claims that this "Oil 2.0" will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.


Quote:
Mr Pal explains that LS9’s bugs are single-cell organisms, each a fraction of a billionth the size of an ant. They start out as industrial yeast or nonpathogenic strains of E. coli, but LS9 modifies them by custom-de-signing their DNA.


Quote:
Because crude oil (which can be refined into other products, such as petroleum or jet fuel) is only a few molecular stages removed from the fatty acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation, it does not take much fiddling to get the desired result.

For fermentation to take place you need raw material, or feedstock, as it is known in the biofuels industry. Anything will do as long as it can be broken down into sugars, with the byproduct ideally burnt to produce electricity to run the plant.


Quote:
Instead, different types of agricultural waste will be used according to whatever makes sense for the local climate and economy: wheat straw in California, for example, or woodchips in the South.


Quote:
"Our plan is to have a demonstration-scale plant operational by 2010 and, in parallel, we’ll be working on the design and construction of a commercial-scale facility to open in 2011," says Mr Pal, adding that if LS9 used Brazilian sugar cane as its feedstock, its fuel would probably cost about $50 a barrel.


Slashdot discussion: http://hardware.slashdot.org/hardware/08/06/16/0451237.shtml

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I AM GOD AS YOU
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It has been predicted

It has been predicted insects will inherit the earth .....      Any hoot,  I think safe atomic energy if the way ....  Lithium Reactors ???  and then Fission ! ???  beyond fusion / fussion ..... ????????????  ..... go science .....


Hambydammit
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My initial reaction is that

My initial reaction is that this has to be a hoax.

My second reaction is that if this isn't a hoax, this guy needs to buy an island and his own security force, and never, ever, ever go into a closed door meeting with an oil company.

My third reaction is that if this is true, the oil companies would be really smart to take over this technology and use it to phase out traditional oil refineries while maintaining control of the crude oil market.

My fourth reaction is that this has to be a hoax.

 

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Let's hope it's not a

Let's hope it's not a hoax.  If it isn't they need to get a whole lot of publicity going asap, that's the only way the technology will be safe.  Otherwise, like you say, the oil companies will do their damnedest to get it and suppress it unless they find it in their best interest to use it, in which case we'll still be paying a fortune for fuel.

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Mr. XC
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Escherichia coli

Yeah, I do not really know the chemistry well enough to say that this is very unlikely (in other words, probably a hoax). From looking at Escherichia coli (E. coli), I can see how one of its byproducts can be used for biofuel (such as ethanol). I do not know how likely it is to be able to change its output in a significant way by changing parts of its DNA. Sounds like a stretch, but I do not know where the technology on that stands.

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. ..." -- Thomas Jefferson


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Regarding the chemistry, I

Regarding the chemistry, I have no idea either. Still, the united states is currently in a catch-22 situation with oil. Our contracts require that, because we're committed to buying foreign oil, as long as we hold to the contract the other parties must 1. mark all oil by the US dollar and 2. use some fraction of the money we pay to buy into our national debt. A good idea at the time, but part of that contract means that if we stop buying foreign oil the other parties have no obligation to continue buying our debt or price oil in dollars - the two things keeping our accumulated inflation from our economy alive. Or so they say.

Pursuing this avenue may mean banning naturally harvested oil, giving the contract parties the technology to produce renewable oil, and buying that oil instead. Ultimately, there would be no change since the value of oil is indirectly tied to the US debt.

This too would only be a temporary solution, as all it would take for the situation to collapse is for a country to start marketing oil in a different currency and ruin the US monopoly.

Now would be a good time to start buying Euros.


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I have a good idea.  Let's

I have a good idea.  Let's let the bugs run wild in our sewers until we convert the sewers into oil and let the bugs inherit the Earth.  This solves three problems at once, including the problem of humanity which is a blight on this planet.

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Take over?

Quote:
the oil companies would be really smart to take over this technology

Interesting point. If it is a naturally evolved animal then they certainly wouldn't be able to patent the production. They may be able to patent specific processes for its refinement assuming it needs refinement. However they couldn't patent refinement of this oil.

Based on what has been said in this thread so far it would seem that there is a bit of a caveat; animal processes 'waste' to produce this oil. What wast exactly? Plastics? That would still really not solve anything other than to make recycling a bit more efficient.

Quote:
My fourth reaction is that this has to be a hoax

Don't be too hasty, afterall there are nylon eating bacteria, bacteria that eat radio active materials and all sorts of other weird creatures. Also what process do we arrive at fossil fuels by? is this not through bacterial processing of wood?

I guess we need to keep an eye on scientific news.

Found the follwing in the mean time:

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/vdunet/20080617/ttc-us-start-up-modifies-bacteria-to-pro-6315470.html

 

 

 


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Hambydammit wrote:My initial

Hambydammit wrote:

My initial reaction is that this has to be a hoax.

Sigh. I'm getting to feel like iGod with the "we are all one" message. 

How do we get and transport such massive quantities of plant waste? Could it be from fossil fuels? So will we have the same amount of waste product when oil costs $300 a barrel? No. We won't. Why? Because people have to cut things down with horses, or by hand, that's why. And when you do that, you use the waste for other things.

No oil, no Green Revolution. No Green Revolution, no tons of available biomass.

Even IF there were "bugs" (bacteria?) that excreted some quality of oil, how quickly could they do it? Could a population of the bugs put out 100 barrels of oil a day? What about transporting the biomass to these bugs?

What about ... it doesn't have to be a hoax if it's not even close to a real solution to anything?

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