A biotech company based in California announced Monday that they have genetically engineered common bacteria to produce hydrocarbon chains. LS9 claims they can produce hundreds of different kids of hydrocarbon molecules this way, including crude oil free from the sulphur particles that contaminate ground oil. This could, in turn, be refined into gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or lubricants.
According to Technology Review, a rival company, Amyris is working on a similar process that could yield fuel directly, without the need for refining. Both companies will launch trial production next year.
Genetically modified bacteria could also be used to make existing fuels cleaner and reduce the environmental impact of crops used in the production of ethanol and bio diesel. Bacteria produced fuels could help reduce the developed world's reliance on fossil fuels from the Middle East and markedly reduce their emissions, but as yet the technology does not offer hope of completely eliminating harmful emissions caused by the burning of hydrocarbon based fuels.
Photo credit: Ed Uthman
Making Gasoline from Bacteria [Technology Review]