BP plans to spend $500 million over the next ten years to establish a dedicated biosciences energy research laboratory attached to a major academic center in the US or UK, the first facility of its kind in the world.
BP CEO Lord Browne said the company has begun discussions with several leading universities to identify which could host the BP Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), with the aim of launching early research programs by the end of 2007.
Speaking in London today at the release of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2006, Browne said the new institute would focus initially on three key areas of energy bioscience:
Developing new biofuel components and improving the efficiency and flexibility of those currently blended with transport fuels;
Devising new technologies to enhance and accelerate the conversion of organic matter to biofuel molecules, with the aim of increasing the proportion of a crop which can be used to produce feedstock; and
Using modern plant science to develop species that produce a higher yield of energy molecules and can be grown on land not suitable for food production.
Browne said the EBI would be staffed by scientists drawn both from the host university and other academic institutions, along with a small number of specialists from BP.
The world needs new technologies to maintain adequate supplies of energy for the future. Bioscience is already transforming modern medicine and we believe it can bring immense benefits to the energy sector. By creating this integrated and dedicated research centre, we plan to harness a technical discipline with enormous potential to provide new energy solutions.—Lord Browne
The EBI will undertake basic research freely accessible to the world’s technical communities as well as proprietary applied projects for commercial bioscience applications.
In the proprietary area, it will support the new biofuels business within BP’s refining and marketing division which has been created to address the increasing requirement that biocomponents be blended into traditional fossil-based transport fuels.
We expect demand for biofuels to rise significantly through the next decade to meet consumer desire for more environmentally responsible products and to satisfy the requirements of governments for more energy to be home-grown.
It is clear that this demand will outstrip availability without major investment to stimulate the development of new associated technologies that improve cost-effectiveness and broaden the range of biocomponents available globally.—Lord Browne
In addition to its focus on advanced biofuels, the Institute will also look at broader applications of bioscience to energy, including improved recovery of oil, coal bed methane and carbon sequestration.
BP has also joined the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)—the first fully integrated energy company to do so.
In 2005, BP purchased 590 million gallons of bio-ethanol (575 million gallons in the US) and 70 million gallons of bio-diesel for blending. The company is currently finalizing plans to make an E85 fuel available in one or more US markets towards the end of this year.