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Global Bioenergies and LanzaTech to collaborate to assess the bioproduction of isobutene from carbon monoxide

Global Bioenergies S.A. and LanzaTech Ltd, two industrial biology companies, have begun a feasibility study to examine whether Global Bioenergies’ artificial isobutene pathway (earlier post), can be functionally transferred into LanzaTech’s carbon monoxide-using organism (earlier post).

Isobutene is a widely used intermediate chemical used for the production of fuel additives, rubber and solvents. In a paper earlier this year describing a new mixed oxide catalyst for the direct conversion of bio-ethanol to isobutene, researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) noted that trimerization of isobutene produces tri-isobutenes, which can be used as an additive for jet fuel. Isobutene dimerization and hydrogenation to produce isooctane is used to increase the octane number of gasoline, and isobutene also reacts with alcohols such as ethanol to form ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE), a gasoline additive. (Earlier post.)

LanzaTech’s strategy is to diversify its product portfolio beyond ethanol to key chemical intermediates and drop-in aviation fuels through developing key technology partnerships. Global Biotechnologies’ technology could contribute to this strategy as isobutene can be directly converted to polymers and jet fuel relevant C-12 molecules. This work is a natural extension of the Global Biotechnologies and LanzaTech technology platforms.

—Dr. Jennifer Holmgren, LanzaTech CEO

Global Bioenergies’ core technology consists in a proprietary artificial pathway allowing the direct fermentative production of isobutene from renewable resources. This pathway has so far been expressed in a classical production microorganism using carbohydrates such as glucose as feedstock.

LanzaTech’s processes use proprietary microorganisms that use nonfood resources as feedstocks. In the study with Global Bioenergies, the focus is on the use of carbon monoxide gas for isobutene production. Carbon monoxide can be readily found in waste industrial gas streams such as those found in steel mills, or can be produced through gasification of waste resources such as municipal waste or other organic substances.

Carbon monoxide combines the attractive features of biochemical versatility and virtuous sourcing. Metabolic conversions of this gas are manifold in the natural living world and will be further diversified by synthetic biology. Most importantly, carbon monoxide retains a large part of the energy stored in photosynthetic biomass when it is generated by pyrolysis from agricultural or municipal waste and non-edible plants. Exploring the strategic potential of carbon monoxide as an agro-industrial intermediate for making biofuels is in line with Global Bioenergies’ mission and we welcome the opportunity to collaborate with LanzaTech toward this endeavor

—Philippe Marlière, co-founder of Global Bioenergies and president of its Scientific Advisory Board

Global Bioenergies initially focused its efforts on the production of isobutene, and continues to improve the yield of its process and prepares the phase dedicated to pilot testing. The company is also looking to replicate this success with other members of the gaseous olefins family (propylene, ethylene, linear butylenes, butadiene...), key molecules at the heart of petrochemical industry.

Founded in New Zealand in 2005, LanzaTech has developed a novel gas-liquid fermentation process that produces fuels and chemicals from gas resources.


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