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jueves, 8 de marzo de 2018

ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics enter a new phase of their joint algae biofuel research program

Type of post: NEWS IN BRIEF.

ExxonMobil is actively engaged in the research on advanced biofuels, partnering with universities, laboratories and other companies. Its alliance with Synthetic Genomics Inc. to produce oil from algae to be used as a renewable, lower-emission alternative to traditional transportation fuels is one of the most known examples. The partnership started in 2009. Last year, a major breakthrough of their research program was published in Nature Biotechnology: a modified algae strain that double its lipid fraction of cellular carbon compared to the parent without significantly inhibiting the strain’s growth (a genetic switch allows to regulate the conversion of carbon to oil in the algae).

Figure 1. Synthetic Genomics’ scientists uses advanced cell engineering technologies (extracted from ExxonMobil website)

Now, they have just announced a new phase in their joint algae biofuel research program (see press release, 6/3/2018). This new phase includes an outdoor field study that will grow naturally occurring algae in several contained ponds in California. The research will enable ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics to better understand fundamental engineering parameters (for instance, viscosity and flow), which cannot easily be replicated in a lab. The results of this work are important to define how to scale the technology and create a perfect stepping stone to lay the foundation for a large scale commercial deployment of the technology in the future.

Both companies are continuing with fundamental research on algae biology in their laboratories as the field study advances. ExxonMobil anticipates that 10,000 barrels of algae biofuel per day could be produced by 2025 based on research conducted to date and emerging technical capability.

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