The scale of global fossil fuel consumption is massive. In 2011 almost 11,000 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) were consumed in the form of oil, gas, and coal-based fossil fuels. While fossil fuel consumption continues to increase (~32% increase from 2000 to 2011) to sustain our growing population and the advancement of developing nations (e.g. China and India), most of this increase in consumption comes from coal (~57% increase 2000-2011) and natural gas (~34% increase 2000-2011). Coal and gas production rates are currently increasing faster than consumption rates. For petroleum oil however, consumption (~14% increase 2000-2011) has grown faster than oil production (~10% increase 2000-2011) in the same period largely due to the plateau in production of conventional oil; a harbinger of some major challenges and changes to the future energy mix.
The petroleum industry can exploit a range of feedstocks for the production, processing and transformation of liquid hydrocarbons, of which conventional oil has, until recently, been the cheapest and most readily accessible. A significant factor in the choice of future feedstocks will be the impact on global CO2 emissions for which targets have been set by many governments suggesting a trend that is likely to increase. If effective, these targets would impose a market premium increasingly favouring CO2-neutral feedstocks, including fuels derived from algae. The technology of producing biocrude and more specific oils from algae has recently made significant progress in addressing economic obstacles and the scalability of photoautotrophic algae production is arguably high (up to ~10-20% of global fuel consumption), when water and nutrient recycling strategies are employed.
Last date updated on June, 2014