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Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol


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Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol

 

Chris Ayres

 

June 14, 2008

 

***Silicon Valley is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to provide 'renewable petroleum'***

 

 

 

Ten years ago I could never have imagined Id be doing this, says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to especially the ones coming out of business school this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.

 

 

 

He means bugs. 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, its a brave new world.

 

 

 

Mr Pal is a senior director of LS9, one of several companies in or near Silicon Valley that have spurned traditional high-tech activities such as software and networking and embarked instead on an extraordinary race to make $140-a-barrel oil (£70) from Saudi Arabia obsolete. All of us here everyone in this company and in this industry, are aware of the urgency, Mr Pal says.

 

 

 

What is most remarkable about what they are doing is that instead of trying to reengineer the global economy as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. 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.

 

 

 

LS9 has already convinced one oil industry veteran of its plan: Bob Walsh, 50, who now serves as the firms president after a 26-year career at Shell, most recently running European supply operations in London. How many times in your life do you get the opportunity to grow a multi-billion-dollar company? he asks. It is a bold statement from a man who works in a glorified cubicle in a San Francisco industrial estate for a company that describes itself as being prerevenue.

 

 

 

Inside LS9s cluttered laboratory funded by $20 million of start-up capital from investors including Vinod Khosla, the Indian-American entrepreneur who co-founded Sun Micro-systems Mr Pal explains that LS9s 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. Five to seven years ago, that process would have taken months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he says. Now it can take weeks and cost maybe $20,000.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The company is not interested in using corn as feedstock, given the much-publicised problems created by using food crops for fuel, such as the tortilla inflation that recently caused food riots in Mexico City. 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.

 

 

 

Using genetically modified bugs for fermentation is essentially the same as using natural bacteria to produce ethanol, although the energy-intensive final process of distillation is virtually eliminated because the bugs excrete a substance that is almost pump-ready.

 

 

 

The closest that LS9 has come to mass production is a 1,000-litre fermenting machine, which looks like a large stainless-steel jar, next to a wardrobe-sized computer connected by a tangle of cables and tubes. It has not yet been plugged in. The machine produces the equivalent of one barrel a week and takes up 40 sq ft of floor space.

 

 

 

However, to substitute Americas weekly oil consumption of 143 million barrels, you would need a facility that covered about 205 square miles, an area roughly the size of Chicago.

 

 

 

That is the main problem: although LS9 can produce its bug fuel in laboratory beakers, it has no idea whether it will be able produce the same results on a nationwide or even global scale.

 

 

 

Our plan is to have a demonstration-scale plant operational by 2010 and, in parallel, well 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.

 

 

 

Are Americans ready to be putting genetically modified bug excretion in their cars? Its not the same as with food, Mr Pal says. Were putting these bacteria in a very isolated container: their entire universe is in that tank. When were done with them, theyre destroyed.

 

 

 

Besides, he says, there is greater good being served. I have two children, and climate change is something that they are going to face. The energy crisis is something that they are going to face. We have a collective responsibility to do this.

 

 

 

SOURCE: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/e ... 133668.ece

 

 

 

Hmmm, this seems like an idea that might have some merit. Granted, I'll believe it when I see it, but it sounds like it has more ground than biomass products to produce combustibles.

 

 

 

My only worry is that it might give leaders excuses to shelve clean energy if they pursue this further.

 

 

 

I also heard something about plankton forming bio-fuels a while back, but haven't heard anything since. That said, I still hold my skepticism. I wanna see something about this published in Science or Nature before growing with any excitement, but it is interesting :)

 

 

 

OT: Computing using Bacteria http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/05/28/bacteria-computer.html

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^ was thinking the same thing.

 

 

 

It sounds too fictional. a bug that consumes junk and produces one of the most demanded materials in the world. It sounds like a sci-fi author's desperation for a new story line for his 300th book. If this works, oil may actually become a fully renewable resource (although it'd take a LOT of the bacteria to produce it, and who knows the health hazards?).

 

 

 

But it still won't be enough for gas companies to lower their prices -.- Freakin' capitalism.

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That tears it. I'm starting an animal rebellion using my mind powers. Those PETA bastards will never see it coming until the porcupines are half way up their asses.
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Great now oil comes out of bugs [wagon]. I mean I don't know if anyone else knows this, it may be a secret but when you dig real real deep into the ground there is oil there. I'm sure if we did that we could get oil, right? :wall:

My carbon footprint is bigger than yours...and you know what they say about big feet.

 

These are the times that try mens souls...
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Great now oil comes out of bugs [wagon]. I mean I don't know if anyone else knows this, it may be a secret but when you dig real real deep into the ground there is oil there. I'm sure if we did that we could get oil, right? :wall:

 

Not for long. Noticed gas prices lately?

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Command the Murderous Chalices! Drink ye harpooners! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat's bow- Death to Moby Dick!

BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!

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Great now oil comes out of bugs [wagon]. I mean I don't know if anyone else knows this, it may be a secret but when you dig real real deep into the ground there is oil there. I'm sure if we did that we could get oil, right? :wall:

 

Not for long. Noticed gas prices lately?

 

 

 

And that it's nearly no oil left underground may have something to do with it Jack?

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Great now oil comes out of bugs [wagon]. I mean I don't know if anyone else knows this, it may be a secret but when you dig real real deep into the ground there is oil there. I'm sure if we did that we could get oil, right? :wall:

 

Not for long. Noticed gas prices lately?

 

 

 

And that it's nearly no oil left underground may have something to do with it Jack?

 

 

 

Conservatives in America aren't concerned with energy independence.

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Great now oil comes out of bugs [wagon]. I mean I don't know if anyone else knows this, it may be a secret but when you dig real real deep into the ground there is oil there. I'm sure if we did that we could get oil, right? :wall:

 

Not for long. Noticed gas prices lately?

 

 

 

And that it's nearly no oil left underground may have something to do with it Jack?

 

Pretty much what i said, but whatever. ANd what do energy conservatives have to do with the fact that oil is scarce?

whalenuke.png

Command the Murderous Chalices! Drink ye harpooners! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat's bow- Death to Moby Dick!

BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!

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Sounds like a desperate bid to bring oil prices down lol.

 

 

 

* "Oh, there's a new bug that turns garbage into petrol!"

 

* Oil trading prices drop slightly due to slightly substantiated evidence

 

* Inventor of bug (or whoever he's in league with), buy millions/billions of oil at reduced price

 

* "Oh, turns out that trash eating bug was fake/mistaken/needsfutherresearch...

 

* Price of oil rises again.

 

* Affore mentioned inventors and associates make a killing by selling oil at new high

 

 

 

... or something to that effect I imagine.

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Are you guys kidding? There is plenty of oil left. The problem os that congress has placed it all off limits. Anwr is off limits. We could be getting a million barrels a day from there. They just found 200 BILLION barrels in the Dakotas. Offshore drilling is so restricted that soon CHINA will be drilling within a hundered miles of Florida yet we can't. Not to mention the 1.5 TRILLION (with a t) barrels of oil we could get from oil shale. Or we could take all that coal we have and turn it into oil. We are the saudi arabia of coal so why not turn it into oil?

My carbon footprint is bigger than yours...and you know what they say about big feet.

 

These are the times that try mens souls...
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Or we could take all that coal we have and turn it into oil. We are the saudi arabia of coal so why not turn it into oil?

 

Clearly, you've never studied the Nazis and their attempts to convert coal into oil. I'll just say, it went badly. ;)

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either way jack, its gonna run out eventually, and when it does, its best to be prepared. if that bug is real, theres a decent chance we well be prepared. only thing i worry about is if the bugs would produce enough to keep up with the demand of the world -.-

I'm gonna be walking down an alley in varrock, and walka is going to walk up to me in a trench coat and say "psst.. hey man, wanna buy some sara brew"

walka92- retired with 99 in attack, strength, defence, health, magic, ranged, prayer and herblore and 137 combat. some day i may return to claim 138 combat, but alas, that time has not yet come

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Are you guys kidding? There is plenty of oil left. The problem os that congress has placed it all off limits. Anwr is off limits. We could be getting a million barrels a day from there. They just found 200 BILLION barrels in the Dakotas. Offshore drilling is so restricted that soon CHINA will be drilling within a hundered miles of Florida yet we can't. Not to mention the 1.5 TRILLION (with a t) barrels of oil we could get from oil shale. Or we could take all that coal we have and turn it into oil. We are the saudi arabia of coal so why not turn it into oil?

 

 

 

May i remind you Anwr is a protected wildlife refuge? And you can't turn coal into oil, they've tried that. And China will not be drilling within 100 miles of Florida, due to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, that water falls clearly within the United States exclusive economic zone. (EZZ)

 

Either way, oil is going to run out soon.

 

 

 

EDIT: Saudi Arabia is not the biggest exporter of oil to the U.S, there 3rd, in fact they don't even have the most oil in the world, here's the top 5 oil exporters to the U.S.

 

 

 

* Canada - 1.8 million barrels

 

 

 

* Mexico - 1.6 million barrels

 

 

 

* Saudi Arabia - 1.4 million barrels

 

 

 

* Venezuela - 1.1 million barrels

 

 

 

* Nigeria - 1.0 million barrels

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The area they would drill in anwr is the size of a business card on a basketball court. And they can do it in a environmentally friendly way. They could get 5% of the amount of oil the U.S. uses for 12 years. That means if Clinton hadn't vetoed it we would be getting a million barrels a day today. And China is not drilling off the coast of florida at present but the Cuban government has leased them the land. And woopsie I forgot its not 100 miles, its 60 miles.

 

 

 

 

 

They can change coal to oil for $35 a barrel.

 

 

 

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m ... i_89924477

My carbon footprint is bigger than yours...and you know what they say about big feet.

 

These are the times that try mens souls...
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The area they would drill in anwr is the size of a business card on a basketball court. And they can do it in a environmentally friendly way. They could get 5% of the amount of oil the U.S. uses for 12 years. That means if Clinton hadn't vetoed it we would be getting a million barrels a day today. And China is not drilling off the coast of florida at present but the Cuban government has leased them the land. And woopsie I forgot its not 100 miles, its 60 miles.

 

 

 

 

 

They can change coal to oil for $35 a barrel.

 

 

 

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m ... i_89924477

 

 

 

That's because that water belongs to Cuba, they can do whatever they want to do with it. And you would not be getting millions of more barrels a day from Anwr, that is a huge over statement.

 

 

 

EDIT: Too many U.S. power plants run on coal for them to starting to turn coal, into oil. 59 percent of U.S. electricity come form coal.

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Cool if it's true. Of course, there are tons of ways for renewable energy. People just go overly crazy about certain ways, even if they're no better than gasoline.

 

 

 

Also, to the whole "destroy the natural beauty of ANWR" thing, that's not true. In the few areas where pipelines run, caribou populations (especially) have shot up insanely. They like the heat from the pipes.

catch it now so you can like it before it went so mainstream

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^^ Even Chuck Schumer admitted that a million barrels a day would lower gas prices 50 cents immediately.

My carbon footprint is bigger than yours...and you know what they say about big feet.

 

These are the times that try mens souls...
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Cool if it's true. Of course, there are tons of ways for renewable energy. People just go overly crazy about certain ways, even if they're no better than gasoline.

 

 

 

Also, to the whole "destroy the natural beauty of ANWR" thing, that's not true. In the few areas where pipelines run, caribou populations (especially) have shot up insanely. They like the heat from the pipes.

 

 

 

Before they were dieing, because someone made the pipelines so low the caribou could not make there annual migration and they began to die of starvation. Besides there a difference between drilling for oil and running a few pipelines through somewhere.

 

 

 

Even if there did start drilling in ANWR, It would take a long long time for it to start producing a million barrels a day. And it will run out before long.

 

 

 

[hide=]valdez_duck.jpg[/hide]

 

 

 

We don't want THIS to happen again do we?

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Oil spills are not a reason not to drill. They can do it in an environmentally safe way. Oil tankers spill 33 times more oil than platforms. So we'd be spilling less oil by drilling than by importing oil.

My carbon footprint is bigger than yours...and you know what they say about big feet.

 

These are the times that try mens souls...
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Instead of putting millions of dollars into more Co2 releasing energy forms we should be putting that money into development of cleaner and safer methods. Hydrogen engines have been proven possible and are completely safe, their combustion by product is only water, not harmful Carbon Dioxide, we've all seen the premature effects of Global warming.

 

 

 

I think it's about time we moved away from Oil and went towards investing in cleaner and safer methods of renewable energy such as wind power / solar / tidal / hydropower. Oil has had it's day and it [bleep]ed us over in the process.

 

 

 

Oil spills are not a reason not to drill. They can do it in an environmentally safe way. Oil tankers spill 33 times more oil than platforms. So we'd be spilling less oil by drilling than by importing oil.

 

 

 

If we're drilling at sea it will most likely be sent to it's nearest land form for less costs since all Oil companies are only concerned about profits, so in the case of Anwr it would most likely be sent to Cuba, we would then have to send it by tanker to Usa.

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