Q6. Discuss several ways in which microorganisms can help in meeting the current fuel shortage. (10m) – Science & Tech
According to the International Energy Outlook, World energy consumption is projected to increase by 71 percent from 2003 to 2030. Thus, there is an urgency in finding renewable and efficient fuels. Microbes can act as a source of alternative fuels and energy production by assisting in the production of biofuels and through various other processes.
Several ways in which microorganisms can help in meeting the current fuel shortage such as:
- By the process of Microbial methanogenesis: it converts the residual hydrocarbons in depleted oil wells or coal deposits into methane using modified microbes and recover a far greater percentage of the fuel.
- By creating a microbial fuel cells: A microbial fuel cells (MFCs) is a device that converts chemical energy to electrical energy by the action of microorganisms. It uses a system that uses bacteria as the catalyst to oxidize organic and inorganic matter, and consequently, generate electric current out of it.
- By using the process of Biomethanation: Biomethanation is a process by which organic material is microbiologically converted under anaerobic conditions to biogas. Specific bacterias can be modified using biotechnology to produce more methane gas.
- Using 3rd Generation Biofuels: 3rd generation of biofuels include use of specially cultivated Microalgae. For example generation of Butanol using microalgae.
- Using the process of Bioprocessing: Microorganisms can be used to upgrade the quality of petroleum and coal by removing undesirable elements such as sulfur, nitrogen, metals, and ash using Bioprocessing. It can make fuel less expensive too.
- Biohydrogen Production from Biomass: Microbial fermentation processes can convert biomass into hydrogen gas, which can be used as a clean energy source.
Benefits of fuel generation using microorganisms:
- Renewable and sustainable energy source.
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions and carbon from atmosphere
- Energy security and independence.
- Economic growth and job creation.
- Cleaner air and water quality , climate sustainability and achieving INDC targets
Challenges in the process
- Technology is still in its nascent stage.
- Energy-intensive production processes.
- High cost of Production
The Government of India has launched initiatives such as GOBARDHAN scheme, JI-VAN Scheme, 20% Ethanol blending and National Biofuel Policy 2019 to promote fuel generation using microorganisms. However, looking at the challenges, a lot needs to be done to achieve mass production and consumption of such fuels.
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