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.