What if we could speed up the process of making petroleum for use in our automobiles? Even better: what if we could just produce all of the hydrocarbons we need when we need them? Would we then have "renewable petroleum"? That is what a company known as LS9 is working on. They are "coaxing bacteria into producing hydrocarbons that could be processed into fuels like those made from petroleum." How? It seems that they are genetically engineering bacteria such as E. coli to make hydrocarbon chains. These bacteria make "fatty acids" which are stripped of the acid, leaving "hydrocarbon that can be made into fuel." The crude oil can then be refined into any of the standard petroleum based fuels that we commonly use, meaning that no changes would be necessary to our vehicles or any other processes that we use to transport them etc. These fuels would be just like what we use now.
One question this brings up is the emissions of the fuel. Obviously, more research is required on the subject, but this could be carbon-neutral, like other biofuels. You may be reminded of a similar operation which we covered before from a group known as Amyris. The difference between the two is that LS9 is attempting to make crude oil while Amyris is attempting to produce fuels ready to be used. Is there something out there better than gasoline? Could the LS9 system be used to make that fuel too? Interesting times most certainly lie ahead in the biofuel market.
[Source: Technology Review]