The UN Sustainable Development goals are goals set out to improve upon problems that are an issue on a global scale. There are 17 of these goals which set out to rectify their respective problems.1 For example, these goals include improving good health and well-being, obtaining affordable and clean energy, prevention of further climate change and improving conditions for both life on land and below water.2
The demand for fossil fuels is becoming greater and greater every year but the resources are depleting quickly. By 2030, the projected increase in oil consumption is approximately 10%. Furthermore, the depleting oil resources has led to companies and industries looking into refining oil from heavy oil reservoirs as a source of petroleum for energy. The current refining process and transportation of the resulting petrol involves using physical processes, which are very damaging to the environment and quite costly. Heavy oils are currently extracted and refined by using thermal methodologies. such as in situ combustion. In situ catalytic upgrading is also employed as a technique since it improved the quality of oil being extracted. These processes use a lot of energy to extract the fuel from the heavy oil, thus leading to more CO2 emissions.3 Microbial biotechnology is being used as an alternative to extract the petroleum from heavy oils in a cleaner manner. A process being increasingly explored is Microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR). It’s currently used as a method to extract any oil that has been left behind in small pores in the oil reservoirs.4 Microbes are known to produce natural gas, mostly in the form of methane, while releasing much lower levels of carbon dioxide.5 The levels of CO¬2 can be manipulated further by keeping the microbiome in an alkaline environment. In addition to this, research shows that palladium nanoparticles deposited from microbes are more efficient than the prepared palladium catalyst used for the catalytic upgrading process.3
Although this technique doesn’t fix the problem regarding fossil fuels entirely, it is a great step in the right direction towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development goals for clean energy, industry and innovation and climate change.
Microbial biotechnology is also looking to exploit the use of biofuels as a source of energy. These biofuels are a source for natural gas which can be used as replacement for oil. Most microbes use sugar as an energy source to produce these natural gases. However, by 2050, the population is expected to rise to 9 billion people which means food will become more demanding. As a result, sugar as a biofuel can interfere with the goal to achieve zero hunger. Algae has shown a lot of promise since it will not interfere with the UN SDG that has set out to tackle the issue of hunger. It proliferates to produce large amounts of algae which can then store large quantities of oils. Using the technique MEOR, these oils can be used as an energy source to produce clean, natural gas.6
- Sustainable Development Goals .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300, (accessed 23 October 2019).
- About the Sustainable Development Goals – United Nations Sustainable Development, https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/, (accessed 23 October 2019).
- I. M. Head and N. D. Gray, Microbial Biotechnology 2020; microbiology of fossil fuel resources, Microb. Biotechnol., 2016, 9, 626–634.
- I. Lazar, I. G. Petrisor and T. F. Yen, Microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR), Pet. Sci. Technol., 2007, 25, 1353–1366.
- M. Siegert, J. Sitte, A. Galushko and M. Krüger, Starting up microbial enhanced oil recovery, Adv. Biochem. Eng. Biotechnol., 2014, 142, 1–94.
- A. A. Akinsemolu, The role of microorganisms in achieving the sustainable development goals, J. Clean. Prod., 2018, 182, 139–155.