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Fungus could boost crude output by 45%

German oil producer Wintershall hopes that fungi could help it boost its crude production by as much as 45%. The Kassel-based company is experimenting with the Schizophyllum commune fungus, which generates a biopolymer when it consumes oxygen and starch. This gelatine-like biopolymer thickens water, which is injected into oil deposits to enhance production.

Wintershall said the water can force more oil out of the deposit because it no longer flows past the valuable raw material so easily. The technique is being tested in Ludwigshafen where BASF, Wintershall’s parent company.

Schizophyllum commune can be found in all the forests of the earth on dead wood such as fallen timber. It essentially feeds off oxygen and various carbon sources, such as sugar, and generates the biopolymer it needs for developing its own cell walls, amongst other things, while it grows. The gel-like substance Schizophyllan is made up of a sequence of about 25,000 sugar components and is fully biologically degradable – a real product of nature, in other words. Its value has long since been recognized in some parts of the world: for instance, Schizophyllan is used in South America as a food supplement and in Asia it is even used medicinally to strengthen the immune system.






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