Could seawater be the future of renewable biofuel?

What: Scientists may have found a way to have bacteria produce high-quality renewable fuel in an efficient and sustainable way.

How: Researchers at the University of Manchester have re-engineered a type of seawater bacteria called “Halomonas” into producing high-value organic compounds that can replace fuels, among other petroleum-derived products.

By making changes into the very genome of the bacteria, the researchers have been able to change their metabolism into producing organic compounds that promise to replace crude oil. The products can then be processed using renewable resources like seawater and sugar to create specific compounds or combinations.

Why it matters: The breakthrough has far-reaching implications, disrupting the fuel industry. For one, traditional biofuel sources are derived from agricultural products, which often may result in an ethical dilemma of ‘food vs fuel’. Further, their production requires precious resources like land, freshwater and fertilizers.

In addition, current biofuels may lead to performance downgrade and require a significant redesign of the vehicle engines.

The new types of fuels, still in the lab, address the above concerns, having comparable level of performance and lower capital requirements.