Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cleaner Crude Oil Sourced Fuels?

Given that bioethanol-based gasoline produces up to 90% less carbon dioxide than their crude oil-sourced counterparts, is it possible to refine a cleaner gasoline from crude oil?

By: Ringo Bones

Part of the automotive biofuel “mystique” that some environmentalist admire is the way they produce less carbon dioxide during their combustion process – up to 90% in fact. Unfortunately from an economic standpoint, our current biofuel production methods intended for automotive use still can’t compete price-wise with crude oil sourced automotive fuels. And for one good reason, countless billions has been spent on the global crude oil industry since Edwin L. Drake with the financial backing of New York-based investors of Seneca Oil began drilling for crude oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania back in August 27, 1859.

Even as relatively recently during the height of the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 – 74. Tenured chemists of leading crude oil companies through their technical know how and financial backing managed to extract more gasoline from crude oil than before. Like Rowland Hansford – a tenured chemist of Union Oil – whose patented Unicracking method manages to extract five barrels of high-octane gasoline from four barrels of crude oil. As a natural resource with billions of dollars worth of investments and infrastructure used in extracting it, in terms of price per unit volume, crude oil is for all intents and purposes is only slightly more expensive than bottled water at present.

That's why even if some biofuel pioneers still get their used French fry cooking oil to fuel their biodiesel vehicles practically for free, used cooking oil is actually more expensive price wise in comparison to it's crude oil sourced counterpart on a per volume basis. Although we can’t deny that it will soon run out and before it runs out after we hit “peak oil” it will surely skyrocket in price.

During the 1960’s a chemist from Société Française des Petroles BP in France named Alfred Champagnat had experimented in extracting edible proteins from crude oil. The process was said to be efficient: he managed to extract about half a pound of protein from one pound of crude oil. And the process is several thousand times faster in producing edible proteins than farm animals can produce it from fodder. Though now almost forgotten, can Alfred Champagnat’s process of extracting edible proteins from crude oil be modified for use in extracting automotive fuels from crude oil that mimic biofuels – i.e. one that produces up to 90% less carbon dioxide in automotive use?

Though Alfred Champagnat’s method of extracting edible proteins from crude oil could easily be modified for use in extracting biofuel-like automotive fuels from crude oil if major crude oil companies wanted to. Ultimately, there is a very urgent need to wean our industrialized society away from crude oil and other fossil fuels because for one they are running out. And they are one of the main contributors of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, climate change, and sea level rise among other things. A cleaner crude oil-source automotive fuel that produces way fewer greenhouse gases and other pollutants such as harmful oxides of nitrogen and sulfur would help us in tackling the problem of climate change and global warming. But sooner – rather than later – we should wean our industrial civilization from crude oil and other fossil fuels through greater investment in truly carbon neutral renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and really safe nuclear power like nuclear fusion - which would truly qualify as a real alternative energy in comparison to what we currently have.

1 comment:

Marie Lynne said...

Thanks for reminding the world of Alfred Champagnat's work during his tenure at Société Française des Petroles BP on extracting edible proteins from crude oil. Sadly, an overwhelming majority of the world's population had forgotten his brilliant work.