Algae contributing to petroleum deposits from hundreds of millions of years

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Washington, March 14 (ANI): A new research has determined that a particular species of algae has been contributing to existing petroleum deposits from hundreds of millions of years.

The research was carried out by Dr. Timothy Devarenne, an AgriLife Research scientist with the Texas A and M University department of biochemistry and biophysics.

"Oils from the green algae Botryococcus braunii can be readily detected in petroleum deposits and coal deposits suggesting that B. braunii has been a contributor to developing these deposits and may be the major contributor," said Dr. Devarenne.

"This means that we are already using these oils to produce gasoline from petroleum," he added.

Devarenne said that B. braunii is a prime candidate for biofuel production because some races of the green algae typically "accumulate hydrocarbons from to 30 percent to 40 percent of their dry weight, and are capable of obtaining hydrocarbon contents up to 86 percent of their dry weight."

"As a group, algae may be the only photosynthetic organism capable of producing enough biofuel to meet transportation fuel demands," he said.

Devarenne is part of a team comprised of other scientists with AgriLife Research, the University of Kentucky and the University of Tokyo trying to understand more about B. braunii, including its genetic sequence and its family history.

"Without understanding how the cellular machinery of a given algae works on the molecular level, it won't be possible to improve characteristics such as oil production, faster growth rates or increased photosynthesis," he said.

Like most green algae, B. braunii is capable of producing great amounts of hydrocarbon oils in a very small land area.

B. braunii algae show particular promise not just because of their high production of oil but also because of the type of oil they produce, according to Devarenne.

While many high-oil-producing algae create vegetable-type oils, the oil from B. braunii, known as botryococcenes, are similar to petroleum.

"The fuels derived from B. braunii hydrocarbons are chemically identical to gasoline, diesel and kerosene," Devarenne said.

"Thus, we do not call them biodiesel or bio-gasoline; they are simply diesel and gasoline. To produce these fuels from B. braunii, the hydrocarbons are processed exactly the same as petroleum is processed and thus generates the exact same fuels," he said.

"Remember, these B. braunii hydrocarbons are a main constituent of petroleum. So, there is no difference other than the millions of years petroleum spent underground," he added. (ANI)

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