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An anonymous reader writes "For many decades, we have been relying on fossil resources to produce liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and many industrial and consumer chemicals for daily use. However, increasing strains on natural resources as well as environmental issues including global warming have triggered a strong interest in developing sustainable ways to obtain fuels and chemicals. A Korean research team led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) reported, for the first time, the development of a novel strategy for microbial gasoline production through metabolic engineering of E. coli."

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Tomorrow, March 22, is World Water Day, an event established by the United Nations in 1993 to highlight the challenges associated with this precious resource. Each year has a theme, and this year's is "Water and Food Security." The UN estimates that more than one in six people worldwide lack access to 20-50 liters (5-13 gallons) of safe freshwater a day to ensure their basic needs for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. And as the world's population grows beyond 7 billion, clean water is growing scarcer in densely populated areas as well as in remote villages. Collected here are recent images showing water in our lives -- how we use it, abuse it, and depend on it. [36 photos]

A journalist takes a sample of polluted red water from the Jianhe River in Luoyang, Henan province, China, on December 13, 2011. According to local media, the sources of the pollution were two illegal chemical plants discharging their production wastewater into the rain sewer pipes. (Reuters/China Daily)

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The Caspian Sea is bordered by five countries, Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. The Caspian Sea is what remains of the ancient ocean. Around 60 million years ago the this ancient ocean connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Due to shifting of continents it lost its connection with the Pacific Ocean and then with the Atlantic Ocean. Chloe Dewe Mathews’ work on the Caspian Sea recently won the British Journal of Photography’s International Photography Award and will be exhibited in London at the Foto8 Gallery from Nov 22nd until Dec 5th. David Land of f2 Magazine caught up with Mathews as she hitchhiked her way back to Britain from China.

Mathews:

“.. I was mostly shooting in Central Asia (Xinjiang China, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) but now I´m only weeks away from home. My boyfriend (who is also an artist) and I, wanted to do a substantial journey from Asia to Europe without flying, to get a sense of the gradual changes that occur as you move from East to West. We’ve been primarily hitchhiking, and crossing the seas by boat, to get a more immediate sense of the places we are traveling through. Although I did preliminary research, I didn’t want preconceived projects to dictate the way I worked. Rather I wanted to respond to whatever situations we found ourselves in, and once an idea had struck, I could go deeper from there. It´s been a real reconnaissance trip for a lifetime’s work ahead and an education, of course.

One of the biggest challenges has been knowing when to take photographs and when not to. There were periods when I didn’t take out my camera at all, which made me worry that I was wasting opportunities. I had to remind myself that sitting, listening, talking, watching, gathering is as important a part of being a photographer as shooting. Besides, sometimes if you are too busy taking pictures within the boundaries of a certain project, you are blind to what is happening right in front of you. I didn’t want that to happen during this trip.”

All images courtesy Chloe Dewe Mathews/Panos


A woman bathes in a bath of oil at the Naftalan sanatorium. Each session, patients bathe for ten minutes in a tub of crude oil. The oil is heated to 37 degrees for optimum effectiveness, Azerbaijan.


The SOCAR (State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic) oil fields in Ramana on the Absheron Peninsula. Wells in the Caspian were being hand-dug in the region as early as the 10th century and the world’s first offshore and machine drilled wells were built on the Absheron Peninsula during the 1870′s, Azerbaijan.


Boys splash in the Caspian Sea, in the shadow of oil rigs at Sixov beach in Baku, Azerbaijan.


A mother and daughter sit on the artificial sea wall in Astara, near the border with Iran. The Caspian Sea borders are still unresolved between these two countries, almost twenty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Both countries claim ownership of lucrative oil fields in the southern waters, which has led to a series of confrontations, as each side has forged exploratory missions to profit from the region, Azerbaijan.


Two sisters run down to the underground mosque in Beket-Ata near the Caspian Sea. They have come on a pilgrimage with their family from Aktau, to pray for the recovery of their uncle, Kazakhstan.


In a coastal cemetery, Uzbek migrant workers wear makeshift masks and sunglasses to protect themselves from the sun’s glare, reflecting off the mussel-chalk they work with. They are building elaborate mausoleums for the newly rich middle class. These grave builders work from dawn til dusk, sleeping on site for months at a time, Kazakhstan.


An Uzbek migrant worker pastes plaster into the cracks of a mausoleum. When the Koshkar-Ata cemetery was first established mausoleums were reserved for local saints, a status that was obtained through wisdom and benevolence, through contributions to the well being of the community. Today the splendid tombs belong to the local oil barons. These grave builders work from dawn til dusk, sleeping on site for months at a time, Kazakstan.

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