The new century oil and coal companies will "Grow" their carbon fuels in bioreactors using safe and cost-effective biotechnology.


Toby Kinkaid |

Oil and Coal in the 21st Century
The new century oil and coal companies will “Grow” their carbon fuels in bioreactors using safe and cost-effective biotechnology.®&
Oil and Coal in the 21st Century
Toby Kinkaid, and

The world runs on Oil and Coal. Everywhere we use Oil for transportation fuels and burn Coal to produce electricity, all in copious amounts to fuel our industrial society worldwide. This has been the story for three centuries, and has reached a fevered pitch burning over 1,000 barrels of oil per second worldwide resulting in higher pollution and prices. Will Oil and Coal change? History offers an answer.

It seems every century has its technological revolution.

For the Oil Industry over 150 years ago, in the beginning there was Kerosene. In the late-1800’s, oil-lamp lighting fuel was the mass-market for oil when Rockefeller’s Standard Oil ruled the day. Imagine the panic in Oil Company board rooms when electricity began rapidly replacing Kerosene at the turn of the previous century, when light bulbs quickly replaced oil lamps.

Just as Kerosene replaced whale blubber for lighting fuel decades before, Kerosene, the mainstay of the oil industry was in danger of being replaced. Oil needed a new market.

At the turn of the last century that new market became the internal combustion engine. Gasoline (a previous waste product), and Diesel fuel replaced Kerosene as the main product from fossil-fuel oil and was quickly adopted.

Selling industrial fuels, Oil and Coal companies worldwide sell their products on such scale that over 50% of the electricity produced in the United States alone, is from burning coal. Nearly all transportation fuels worldwide are fossil fuel oil distillates producing a combined industry that commands billions of dollars each day.

With “Supply” limited to specific geographic locations, and “Demand” for energy worldwide, fossil-fuel companies have natural leverage in the marketplace. “Control the oil fields and you control energy,” was the battle cry in board rooms and governments for the last century.

Now, in the 21st century, big oil and king coal face another major paradigm shift. This time it’s not the market that is changing, but the source of oil and coal itself. This paradigm shift stems from the single greatest vulnerability these industries face: oil and coal come from the ground.

Nature chose to sequester carbon underground as Oil, Coal, and Nat. Gas. Using carbon fuels sourced from the ground to fuel worldwide industry and commerce, mass quantities of CO2 is introduced into the hydrosphere (atmosphere and oceans) causing serious issues.

What about bio-fuels? Traditional bio-fuels have an opportunity, yet the ethics of “Food crops” used for “Fuel crops” insures they are no long-term solution. Is there another source of oil and coal?

The US Dept. of Energy under the Aquatic Species Program studied bio-fuels, and reports Corn can produce about 18 gallons net, per acre. Soybean crops do better at 48 gallons, with cottonseed crops coming in around 120 Gallons. Palm oils, if you could grow them, can deliver over 600 gallons per acre. How many gallons per acre could come from micro-algae? According to their research - 10,000 gallons.

Yes, micro-algae is the next generation of Oil and Coal. (This is funny to say as ancient micro-algae is the original source of most oil underground). Micro-algae?, you may ask. Remember back to your elementary school science class? Photosynthesis is the remarkable process of taking inorganic compounds, water, and sunlight, and produce organic compounds: life. What is the base of the food chain? Micro-algae.

Micro-algae are the fastest growing plants known to science, capable of quadrupling every 24 hours. Some species of micro-algae date back in the fossil record 3.5 billion years being some of the oldest species on earth. The US DOE has identified many species of micro-algae that are over 50% oil in content by dry weight. Micro-algae is the new “oil well” and “coal mine” of the 21st century, available to everyone with the right technology. Bioreactor’s growing micro-algae will replace drilling and digging for carbon resources as our ancestors did.

The paradigm shift is the “source” of carbon fuels. Instead of “exo-atmospheric” carbon sourced outside the atmosphere (Coal, Oil, and Nat. Gas), micro-algae consume “inter-atmospheric” carbon and scrub the atmosphere of carbon as they grow.

This is the Atmospheric Carbon Cycle. This carbon-neutral cycle would allow all countries everywhere to “grow” oil and coal fuels in bioreactors absorbing CO2 instead of importing or exploiting resources from the ground.

Micro-algae absorbs CO2 when it grows, and releases it when we use it. There is no new CO2.

Micro-algae can be industrially grown and harvested to be processed into two products: press-cake, and oil. The hard press of micro-algae can produce significant volumes of press-cake (the non-oil components of the micro-algae), and is packed into croquettes to be burned as “Green Coal”.

The by-product of this process extracts oil on the order of 35% by weight. This SVO (Straight Vegetable Oil) is the feedstock for biodiesel production providing a local supply of oil in all countries stabilizing world economies.

This atmospheric carbon-cycle for industrial energy uses existing coal power plants converted to burn “Green Coal”. The flue gasses (rich in CO2) are not released but collected to be used as feedstock for the micro-algae bioreactors. These bioreactors are vessels that grow oil rich micro-algae feeding on the CO2 gasses from combustion.

The micro-algae is harvested, dried, (water recycled for use in the new batch of micro-algae), and processed by hard-press. The press-cake resulting from this oil extraction is rich in fiber, proteins, and other valuable organic compounds suitable for many uses such as organic feedstock for animals, and high value nutrients.

However, used as a direct fuel this process would allow base-load electricity to be generated with modified existing power plants producing a localized source of SVO for local biodiesel for transportation fuel. An electrical, and transportation-fuel cycle, micro-algae technology is carbon-neutral and available to all countries providing a stable power supply for electrical and chemical fuels.

Sourcing the enormous energies the world needs from ground-based carbon only produces new CO2 pollution, volatile fuel supplies, rising prices, international tension and militarism.

Sourcing the enormous energies the world needs on atmospheric-carbon would allow all economies of the world to be ecologically sensitive, independent and self-reliant. Good old-fashion American values.

The Oil and Coal companies of the 21st century will not use the “Shovel” or the “Drill”. The new century oil and coal companies will “Grow” their carbon fuels in bioreactors using safe and cost-effective biotechnology. In this way, energy consumers, industry, transportation, and commerce can grow worldwide and use energy without rising prices, rising pollution, and international tension increasing the quality of life for all people and species in the new century.

The 21st century is all about personal empowerment, and responsibility. What is true for our personal lives is true for our industrial lives. Micro-algae will represent the great leap from fossil fuel and offer the world a real means of abating our environmental impact at the same time offering stable local supplies of clean electricity and chemical fuels worldwide.

The 21st century may be a new age after all. History would predict it.

Toby Kinkaid is a resident of Portland, Oregon and the founder of and co-founder of

© Toby Kinkaid 2007

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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