ExxonMobil and Renewable Energy Group (REG) announced that by utilizing REG’s patented fermentation technology, the companies’ joint research program has demonstrated the ability to convert sugars from a variety of non-edible biomass sources into biodiesel. (Earlier post.)
During their initial research, the companies successfully validated the feasibility of the REG Life Sciences fermentation technology across multiple cellulosic sugar compositions produced with a variety of methods from various non-edible biomass sources. The research also confirmed REG Life Sciences technology is capable of achieving substantial reductions of full-lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional diesel fuel.
Our first challenge during the initial research was to determine technical feasibility and potential environmental benefits. We’re optimistic as the results indicate good potential for advancing the technology, and we look forward to continuing our work with REG Life Sciences.—Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company
ExxonMobil signed an agreement with REG in January 2016 to study the production of biodiesel through fermentation of renewable cellulosic sugars from sources such as agricultural waste. The companies have agreed to extend the research program based on their positive findings and are excited to continue to jointly explore the technology’s potential for scalability.
REG Life Sciences has developed proprietary technology that relies on microbes to convert cellulosic sugars into biodiesel in a one-step fermentation process. Cellulosic feedstocks derived from agricultural waste, contain multiple types of sugars, including glucose and xylose, as well as impurities that can inhibit the fermentation process.
The Life Sciences team, led by Fernando Sanchez-Riera, senior director, Fermentation Process Development, made key discoveries in advancing the commercialization of fermenting diverse cellulosic sugars into renewable, clean burning diesel fuel. We are excited to take these discoveries to the next level. We believe our REG Life Sciences technology holds great potential as an innovation platform across multiple industries and can think of no partner better than ExxonMobil to help us realize that potential in fuels.—Eric Bowen, vice president of REG Life Sciences
A breakthrough in cellulosic biodiesel production could have broad implications for the transportation sector. Global demand for transportation-related energy is projected to increase by about 25% through 2040, and accelerating the reduction in emissions from the transportation sector through technologies such as biodiesel can play a critical role in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
ExxonMobil is also actively researching other emission-reducing technologies, including algae biofuels and carbon capture and sequestration. In June 2017, ExxonMobil and partner Synthetic Genomics, Inc. announced a breakthrough in joint research into advanced biofuels involving the modification of an algae strain that more than doubled its oil content without significantly inhibiting the strain’s growth.
In 2016, ExxonMobil announced its partnership with Connecticut-based FuelCell Energy, Inc. to advance the use of carbonate fuel cells to economically capture carbon emissions from natural gas power plants while generating hydrogen and additional electricity. Since 2000, ExxonMobil has spent about $8 billion to develop and deploy lower-emission energy solutions across its operations.