Fossil fuel: Now without the fossils

Just dig deeper, say boffins


More bad news for the Peak Oil doomsday cult. Russian boffins say they have proved that fossil fuels can be created synthetically by replicating the high pressure, high temperature conditions found in the upper parts of the Earth's crust.

The scientists, at the Lomonosov Moscow State Academy of Fine Chemical Technology and the Royal Insitutue of Technology in Stockholm published their work in June. Under conditions of the upper mantle of the Earth's Crust, methane reacts to produce ethane, propane and butane. It means fossils aren't needed to produce oil and gas.

While the raw materials to produce synthetic fuels may be cheap, the energy required may not be; instead, the scientists are advocating the discovery is used to aid conventional drilling, rather than surface level production of synthetic fossil fuels. Prospectors will be able to drill more accurately, by 20 to 70 per cent, the team estimates.

61 per cent of global energy consumption is currently derived from oil and gas. ExxonMobil recently placed a big bet on algae, chucking $600m at Craig Venter's Synthetic Genomics. Algae has higher yields than the heavily-subdised biofuels used today. Advocates reckon that a 100 acre plant can produce 10 million gallons a year, and that 140 billion gallons are needed to replace the petrol and diesel consumed today.

There's a little (but not much) more at Stockholm's KTI website, here. ®


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