Basics of Algae

Algae – the Original Fuel

Putting algae in your gas tank sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it? Well, guess what – you’re already driving on fuel made from algae.
That’s because the crude oil miles below the earth’s surface was actually formed by layers of prehistoric algae blooms that settled on sea beds around the world.

Over millions of years, massive algae blooms formed periodically in warm, shallow areas of ancient lakes and oceans, feeding off of atmospheric carbon dioxide and sunlight. As the algae cyclically bloomed and died off, they settled to the sea floor, combining with sediment and accumulating on top of previous generations, forming massive deposits of algal biomass within porous rock. Over time, geological forces pushed the layers of decomposing algae deeper into the earth, where they became trapped under layers of non-porous cap rock.

There, they decomposed into kerogen, a hydrocarbon-rich, waxy substance. Geological heat and pressure below the earth’s surface transformed the kerogen into liquid oil, which, due to its low density relative to the surrounding porous shale, seeped upwards and collected in reservoirs. When oil companies “strike oil” it means they have found these reservoirs.

The difference between today’s algae fuels and petroleum fuel is that technology has advanced to the point where it’s possible to replicate the process above in a matter of days, rather than millions of years. Algae can be now converted into a variety of fuels like biodiesel, gasoline and jet fuel. Today’s algae “reservoirs” live above ground, never need to be drilled, and never run dry. Better yet, they can be found in every state in the US.

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