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EPA Awards SBIR Contract for Butanol from Biomass

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will award a $70,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to Integrated Genomics Inc. to develop a method to produce butanol from biomass (cellulosic butanol rather than cellulosic ethanol) that is economically competitive with the chemical synthesis of butanol from petroleum.

In 2004, EPA had awarded another contract to The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research (CPBR) at Ohio State University to develop a process for butanol from biomass. That project runs through September 2007.

The CPBR project is exploring a two-step fermentation process for production of butanol. In the first step, a butyric acid bacterium (Clostridium tyrobutyricum) coverts glucose and xylose to butyric acid, which is then converted to butanol by Clostridium acetobutylicum in a separate bioreactor.

Separating acidogenesis and solventogenesis in two sequential bioreactors, according to the CPBR team, allows better control of the metabolic pathway and direct more carbon source to butanol instead of other byproducts (acetone, ethanol, acetate, and butyrate) commonly found in the acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) fermentation, thus increasing butanol yield and productivity.

Also, a novel immobilized fibrous bed bioreactor (FBB) is being used for the fermentation to adapt cells to tolerate high butanol concentration.

Integrated Genomics provides a full range of products and services to support research in microbial genomics, biochemistry and gene expression. These products and services are based on ERGO, its bioinformatics suite for microbial genomics.

In August, Integrated Genomics and Mascoma Corporation entered into a contract to analyze the genome of a microbe important to breaking down cellulosic biomass for conversion into ethanol. (Earlier post.)



$70K? That's it?


Wow! That's almost enough to pay the salary of a single researcher for a year. Though I suppose that it would be a substantial amount for a very small operation, and the "Small Business" angle seems to indicate that.

Never underestimate the power of two people working in their garage to change the world (Woz and Jobs spring to mind).

Michael McMillan
That sounds like a much better fuel than ethonol.
website for the grant:
image with the basic stats:


SBIR projects are financed in phases.
$70k sounds like first phase money to write a whitepaper.
If the concept is approved, funding is provided to build a prototype.
Later phases need to demonstrate commercial potential to get more funding.

Harvey D.

WOW! $70k. Will this be enough for a 10-page paper on how to make economic cellulosic butanol?

At that rate, this project may have 100+ phases over the next 100+ years?

Meanwhile, oil war budgets will reach over $300 000 000/day in 2007.

Something is not very well balanced here.


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