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BP and Martek Biosciences Enter a Joint Development Agreement to Deliver Advanced Microbial Biofuels

BP and Martek Biosciences Corporation signed a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) to work on the production of microbial oils for biofuels applications. The partnership combines a broad technology platform and operational capabilities to advance the development of a step-change technology for the conversion of sugars into renewable diesel fuels.

Under the terms of the multi-year agreement, Martek and BP will work together to establish proof of concept for large-scale, cost effective microbial biofuels production through fermentation. Martek, a nutritional products company, has developed and patented two fermentable strains of microalgae which produce oils rich in docosahexaenoic acid, DHA. A similar patented process was developed for a fungus that produces an oil rich in arachidonic acid, ARA. Both DHA and ARA are important nutrients for optimal infant development.

The sugar to diesel pathway converts sugars derived from biomass into lipids using the unique fermentation microorganisms; the lipids are then converted into fuel molecules through chemical or thermocatalytic processes.

Renewable diesel produced from sustainable feedstocks via the fermentation of sugars will offer the potential to deliver greenhouse gas emission reductions of up to 80-90% when compared to traditional fossil fuel. Other advantages of this sugar to biofuels pathway over conventional biodiesel made from vegetable oils include:

  • Access to a wide variety of biomass feedstocks such as sugar cane, sugar cane waste (bagasse), energy grass and woodchips, which can be produced at scale and in high yield.
  • Use of sustainable, non-food, plant biomass as its feedstock.
  • Ability to tailor the product for a variety of diesel and jet-fuel needs.
  • Reduced exposure to vegetable oil price.

BP is very pleased to be entering this important partnership with Martek. As an alternative to conventional vegetable oils, we believe sugar to diesel technology has the potential to deliver economic, sustainable and scaleable biodiesel supplies. In partnering with Martek, we combine the world’s leading know-how in microbial lipid production with our expertise in fuels markets and applications, and our more recent experience in biofuels production and commercialization.

This technology is also a perfect fit with our other strategic choices for biofuels, all based on sustainable feedstocks and fermentation to produce advanced biofuels. It is part of our approach of integrating sugar cane and lignocellulosic biofuels with advanced technologies to produce products with a wide range of uses.

—Philip New, CEO BP Biofuels

The technology has been demonstrated in Martek’s field for more than 20 years and the challenge is to adapt this technology to the needs of the biofuels market, in terms of product profile and economics.

BP has agreed to contribute up to $10 million to this initial phase of the collaboration which leverages Martek’s significant expertise in microbial oil production and BP’s production and commercialization experience in biofuels as the platform for the joint development effort.

Martek will perform the biotechnology research and development associated with this initial phase, while BP will contribute to its integration within the biofuels value chain. All intellectual property owned prior to the execution of the JDA will be retained by each respective company, and all intellectual property developed during the JDA will be owned by BP, with an exclusive licence to Martek for application and commercialization in nutrition, cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications. Additionally, each party is entitled to certain commercial payments from technology commercialized in the other party’s field.



Weird. BP just announced it was getting out of biofuels. What's up with that outfit?


Reel, funny, I thought BP had just exited everything EXCEPT biofuels, eg wind, solar...

Henry Gibson

There is not a single acre of land owned by man from the beginning of the earth. Natural forces put plants where there was water to grow them. No land in rainforest areas was without plants. Natural forces built up fossil fuels from sunlight. If plants are used for fuel, the CO2 goes into the air and more is used for cultivating and harvesting and processing such crops. If this CO2 is subtracted from the CO2 produced from the remaining carbon in the fuel, It can be seen that the CO2 levels of the earth would be reduced if the carbon was all converted to charcoal and buried in deep mines.

The CO2 levels are not reduced by nearly as much as people believe by using biofuels. No! Ethanol is not carbon neutral because the remaining carbon in the fuel came from the air in the first place. Even if all of the energy to make and process ethanol came from plants, it would not be carbon neutral.

The combustion of the totally renewable fuels and the ethanol, put more CO2 into the air than if the plants were left to nature. There are some who claim with good facts and arguments that ethanol is an energy loss because more fossil fuel is used to produce it and burn it than it contains.

It is easy to take crop production figures to find out that if all of the agricultural land and grass land and forest land in the US were used for biofuels there would not be enough land for a large fraction of the US oil use much less the other energy use.

Looking on the other side of the issue one finds the possibility that oil companies must know this and are just using their money to keep people worried and to justify charging very high prices for oil that was in the ground and only took a few dollars to get it out.

Why sell oil at low prices whilst speculators including all oil producing areas are driving the price up. Owning biofuel companies ensures that no breakthoughs in production have to be implemented if it would reduce the world price of oil.

Expensive biofuels make it far easier to sell expensive fossil fuels. When the price of oil dropped, producers cut back on production to force the price back up.

Jet fuel made from coal can be had for cheaper than from oil if the oil is $35 a barrel, but in the US people would rather export vast amounts of money to speculators rather than produce a few more pounds extra in CO2.

Oil lobbiests and their companies are not stupid. Pass a law that no more CO2 can be released by making jet fuel from coal than if it were made from imported oil.

There are no facts shipped with that barrel of oil that ten times as much carbon did not go into producing and delivering that oil than went into the oil produced in a local well. Many pounds of methane may have been flared to produce the barrel and pounds of CO2 may have been in that well naturally.

No amount of reduction of CO2 prodcution in the US will compensate for the increases in other countries. ..HG..

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