(a piece of bitumen sand)
It is estimated that the worlds oil supply was around three trillion barrels, and that so far we have diminished that supply by between one and two thirds. At the current rate the world is consuming oil, we all know that eventually the oil supply will run out, perhaps in near future (several decades). That is why the search for an alternate energy source is such a huge, huge industry today. Although, maybe not as well known, is the fact that currently, there are projects in progress that are attempting to use microbes to increase the yield of oil resevoirs around the world. If the microbes work to their maximum potential, the scientists behind the projects believe they could increase oil production by 10 percent.
This project is based on the discovery that a certain kind of bacteria is naturally breaking down crude oil in resevoirs. But naturally, this process is very slow. So the idea behind the project is very simple. The plan is, basically, to speed up the natural process by adding some fertilizer to the resevoirs, in order to increase the growth of the bacteria and the speed at which they produce methane. Another positive about this project is the fact that it also has the potential to produce energy from deposits of naturally degraded oil, bitumen sands.
Bituminous sands, more commonly known as oil sands( or 'tar sands') are deposits of heavy, high density oil that cannot be easily removed from resevoirs, unlike common, less dense crude oil. Here in Canada, most of our oil comes from oil sands, however, the techniques used currently to extract energy from oil sands are very expensive and involve large amounts of energy. If these techniques could be replaced by natural degradation with the bacteria, large amounts of money and energy would be saved.
Another positive about microbial extraction is the fact that it is much more environmentally friendly. Bitumen (product of current oil sand extraction processes)is a high carbon dioxide emitter, while methane (produced by the bacteria) is much lower. It seems that this project would be a perfect replacement for the older, much more expensive techniques being used to extract oil sands today. The only drawback of this proposed technique is that it only obtains 10 percent of the available energy, while the other processes can obtain 17 percent. Although this process will not solve the worlds oil crisis, it is a temporary way to get more energy from the oil that we have left.