If this works out, there may be little need for hydrofracking. Per TigerHawk, a Massachusetts startup called Joule Unlimited has developed on an organism that can produce liquid fuels on demand. Great, but at what cost? How about thirty bucks a barrel?
Joule says it now has “a library” of fossil-fuel organisms at work in its Massachusetts labs, each engineered to produce a different fuel. It has “proven the process,” has produced ethanol (for example) at a rate equivalent to 10,000 U.S. gallons an acre a year. It anticipates that this yield could hit 25,000 gallons an acre a year when scaled for commercial production, equivalent to roughly 800 barrels of crude an acre a year.
By way of comparison, Cornell University’s David Pimentel, an authority on ethanol, says that one acre of corn produces less than half as much energy, equivalent to only 328 barrels. If a few hundred barrels of crude sounds modest, recall that millions of acres of prime U.S. farmland are now used to make corn ethanol.We expect the professional opposition to shale gas will soon rush to invest in Joule's venture.