Ever wished you had your own oil well? Or perhaps that you could conjure oil out of nothing at all? Well, hold on to your seat because that is exactly what a group of Spanish and French scientists are looking to do at a huge research centre near Alicante in eastern Spain.
Crackers I hear you say? Not quite, it really seems to be feasible. What the team under French petrochemical engineer Bernard Stroiazzo-Mougin are working on is remaking, or synthesising, the natural process by which oil was made millions of years ago – oh yes, and speeding it up so it can be done in a question of weeks rather than the thousands of years required to compress dead vegetable matter into oil, coal and eventually even diamonds.
We have uncovered and synthesized so many of nature’s chemical and biological processes that it is now possible to make a whole host of products ranging from strawberries to diamonds without the original raw material. Now it looks like the Spanish owned research teams of BFS (Bio Fuel Systems) are going to do just that with oil. In fact, they have already successfully synthesised oil by speeding up the natural transformation process of phytoplankton material.
The system uses a veritable forest of tubes that houses millions of microscopic algae, which are subjected to an accelerated simulation process that feeds on carbon dioxide to produce real-life oil. The challenge will now be to produce oil on an industrial scale, but already the plant near Alicante is using up large amounts of carbon dioxide from a neighbouring cement factory in the process, and it is thought that within a few years a facility covering an area of 50 square kilometres will be able to produce about 1.25 million barrels a day, roughly equivalent to the daily export of Iraq, one of the world’s top oil producing countries.
The system promises to produce bio fuel whilst absorbing huge amounts of carbon dioxide in the process, making us less dependent on fossil fuels from politically volatile regions and offering a cleaner alternative – and it’s all happening in eastern Spain.