The extraction of oil from beneath the surface of the planet uses water; this requirement for water to be involved in the extraction process may influence peoples choices in the future as the world population continues to rise, and drinkable water become more valuable.
How is water involved in extracting fuels?
Flooding is a technique used in the recovery of fuel oil. This process is used heavily in land-based oil platforms. Other techniques, such as steam injection and carbon dioxide flooding are being used to replace the water-based extraction methods, a; although a large proportion of onshore drilling stations still use water as the method for extracting oil.
How much water is used to extract the oil?
The amount used in extracting oil depends a great deal on where the station is located. Some oil recovery stations in the United States use 0.2 gallons per gallon of oil extracted; although there are locations where 8 gallons are used per gallon of oil extracted. The average levels of water use per gallon of crude oil in the United States range between 2 and 5.5 gallons.
Are biofuels more water efficient?
Like oil recovery, the amount of water used in producing biofuels depend on the location of the stations, and the methods used in producing the fuel. Dry climates, for example will have a greater water requirement. Also the type of crop used to produce the biofuel will effect the water requirements; corn has a large water requirement for growth, but switchgrass has deeper growing roots and is able to survive with a much lower water dose.
How do code oil and bioethanol compare?
The water requirements of various sources of oil and bio-oils can be seen in a recent study conducted int he United States:
1) Corn Ethanol = 10-324 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol
2) Switchgrass ethanol = 1-10 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol
3) US conventional crude oil = 3.5-6.5 gallons of water per gallon of gasoline
Why use biofuels?
Biofuel technology is in its early stages; improvements in technology and growing methods will produce higher yields of ethanol per gallon of water. There is also the production of ethanol from algae; this does not require an additional input of water and can be carried out at sea, with no residual effect on the environment. Using algae as a fuel source may free up water fro human consumption as well as saving space for growing crops on land.