Many oil companies and entrepreneurs are investing money and human resources into searching for new ways to power the future. Algae and heavy oil, or oil sands, are just a few of the possibilities that show promise.
Oil is what makes cars go, but it’s also what makes algae float. Algae are approximately 25 percent oil. When trapped underground for millions of years, the oil will eventually escape from the algae and migrate toward the surface. But what if we can speed up the process? Researchers are studying ways to cultivate algae at or near the surface in large pools of water. They essentially squeeze the mature algae to extract the oil. Algae replicate rapidly but must be cultivated at constant temperatures and guarded from infestation. Because algae eat carbon dioxide, researchers have tested “algae farms” near coal plants. We already know that crops like corn and soybeans are capable of producing biofuels. But they must be grown in vast quantities to yield enough fuel for practical use. Algae produce significantly more biofuel per acre. As the research becomes more advanced, it’s possible that oil companies will get into the algae business in the near future.
The majority of the world’s hydrocarbon deposits are controlled by Middle Eastern countries. But the planet is also rich in heavy hydrocarbons, and half of the world’s heavy hydrocarbon reserves can be found in the oil sands of Canada. The oil sands contain a tar-like substance that can be processed to yield synthetic crude oil. These heavy hydrocarbons are mined and hauled in huge trucks to the processing stations. It’s a risky business – but it’s one that North American oil companies are becoming heavily involved with, in an attempt to reduce dependence on foreign oil. With oil prices at all-time high levels, heavy hydrocarbons can currently be mined and processed profitably.