A humble fungus could help oil companies clean up their fuel to meet tightening emissions standards. The fungus, recently discovered in Iran, grows naturally in crude oil and removes the sulphur and nitrogen compounds that lead to acid rain and air pollution.Read more at New Scientist.
Worldwide, government are imposing increasingly severe limits on how much of those compounds fuels can contain. Oil producers are searching for more efficient ways to strip sulphur and nitrogen from their products.
The standard way to "desulphurise" crude oil involves reacting it with hydrogen at temperatures of 455 °C and up to 204 times atmospheric pressure (roughly 21 million pascals or 3000 psi). It achieves less than perfect results.
Micro-organisms able to metabolise sulphur and nitrogen have the potential to achieve the same endpoint under more normal conditions. In recent years a number of researchers have isolated desulphurising bacteria.
But Jalal Shayegan and his team at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran, have now discovered and isolated a fungus that appears able to remove sulphur from oil with greater efficiency.
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