BP has selected the University of California, Berkeley and its partners, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to join in a $500 million bioscience research program.
Announced in 2006 during the release of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2006, the BP program will provide $500 million over the next 10 years to establish and fund the BP Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI). (Earlier post.) The Energy Biosciences Institute will research the production of new and cleaner energy, initially focusing on renewable biofuels from existing and new crop plants for road transport.
Key areas of focus there will be:
Developing new biofuels and improving the efficiency of petroleum/biofuel blends;
More efficient extraction of biofuels from feedstocks such as corn; and
Developing non-food species with higher biofuel yield that can be grown on land not suited for food crops.
In the UK, BP is working with DuPont on the development of biobutanol as an alternative biofuel. (Earlier post.)
The EBI will also pursue bioscience-based research in three other key areas; the conversion of heavy hydrocarbons to clean fuels, improved recovery from existing oil and gas reservoirs using biological methods, and carbon sequestration.
The Institute will be a fully integrated public and private sector effort requiring specific characteristics in its work:
The research must be broad in scope across the entire value chain. Experience has shown that optimizing independent elements sub-optimizes the entire system.
The research must be inter-disciplinary. Novel findings will likely lie at the interfaces of two or even three discreet disciplines, and these capabilities must be fully integrated in the program.
The research must be mission-oriented with well defined plans, targets, and flexibility in approach to lead to rapid demonstration projects and timely commercialization.
The proposal from UC Berkeley and its partners was selected in large part because these institutions have excellent track records of delivering ‘Big Science’—large and complex developments predicated on both scientific breakthroughs and engineering applications that can be deployed in the real world.
This program will further both basic and applied biological research relevant to energy. In short, it will create the discipline of Energy Biosciences. The Institute will be unique in both its scale and its partnership between BP, academia and others in the private sector.—John Browne, BP Group Chief Executive
Dedicated facilities on the campuses of UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois will house EBI research laboratories and staff. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will carry out supporting research. Up to 50 BP staff located on the two campuses will work in partnership with university faculty and researchers. BP and its partners will share governance of the EBI and guidance of its research programs.
BP has already established a biofuels business within its Refining & Marketing Business. The company blended and distributed 590 million gallons of ethanol and 70 million gallons of biodiesel in 2005. In 2006, BP blended 718 million gallons of ethanol with gasoline—a 25 percent increase from the previous year. With the blending and marketing of these products, along with other refined products, BP accounts for about 10% of the global biofuels market.