Chemical engineers, Savage with his team, at University of Michigan are doing research to produce bio-petroleum from microalgae. They are applying heat and pressure, the method Nature uses to make petroleum naturally, to make oil from microalgae faster and to also use all the by-products as feedstock for more biofuel. Algal biofuel looks very promising because it could be efficient (one company promise to produce 1billion gallons of algal fuel annually by 2025), it’s carbon neutral, and compatible with existing infrastructure. But one concern is the quality of this fuel and their performance in cold temperatures. Microscopically, the high temperature and pressure allow the algae to break down in the water, yielding crude oil. This is exactly the same process petroleum goes under over millennia under ground, except it’s much faster.
(Wired.com, Making Oil in Minutes, Not Millennia, April 30, 2010)