New synthetic fungal-bacterial consortia for direct production of isobutanol from biomass

A team from the University of Michigan, Michigan State, and UCLA has designed synthetic fungal-bacterial consortia for the direct production of isobutanol from biomass. The required biological functions are divided between two specialists: the fungus Trichoderma reesei, which secretes cellulase enzymes to hydrolyze lignocellulosic biomass into soluble saccharides, and the... Read more →

Coast Guard crewmembers train aboard a 38-foot Special Purpose Craft – Training Boat. Source: USCG. Click to enlarge. Biobutanol producer Gevo, Inc. has begun supplying the U.S. Coast Guard R&D Center with initial quantities of finished 16.1% renewable isobutanol-blended gasoline for engine testing. The US Coast Guard R&D Center is... Read more →

New catalysts convert ethanol to butanol with high selectivity; potential low-cost upgrade for ethanol plants

Researchers at the University of Bristol (UK) have developed a new family of catalysts that enables the conversion of ethanol into n-butanol—a higher alcohol with better characteristics for transportation applications than ethanol—with selectivity of more than 95% at good conversion. The team presented a pair of papers on their work... Read more →

Total Biofuels production by fuel type, world markets: 2013-2023. Source: Navigant. Click to enlarge. Navigant Research forecasts global biofuels production will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% between 2013 and 2023, despite slower than expected development of advanced biofuels pathways (such as cellulosic biofuels); an expected... Read more →

Study explores impact of alcohol-gasoline blends with early inlet valve closing at low and moderate loads on EGR tolerance

A team from Brunel University, MAHLE Powertrain and University College London studied the combined effects of different inlet valve operating strategies on combustion, performance and emissions with different ethanol and 1-butanol blends with gasoline in a single-cylinder spark-ignition research engine equipped with a fully variable valvetrain. Their paper is published... Read more →

MIT team shows targeting metabolic pathways to mitochondria significantly boosts yeast production of isobutanol; potential for other chemicals as well

Researchers from MIT and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research have devised a way to boost significantly isobutanol production in yeast by engineering isobutanol synthesis to take place entirely within mitochondria. They showed that targeting metabolic pathways to mitochondria can increase production compared with overexpression of the enzymes involved in... Read more →

Researchers significantly boost yield of isobutanol from engineered yeast using new synthesis pathway located in the cytosol

A team at the Institute of Molecular Biosciences, Goethe-University Frankfurt led by Prof. Dr. Eckhard Boles, has developed a new synthesis pathway for engineering the industrial yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to improve the production of isobutanol via fermentation. The work, noted Boles, is being done for the Swiss biofuels and biochemical... Read more →

Strategies for characterizing the complex butanol-forming routes by metabolic engineering coupled with system-level metabolic flux and mass balance analyses. Jang et al. Click to enlarge. Using a systems metabolic engineering approach, researchers in Korea have improved the butanol production performance of Clostridium acetobutylicum, one of the best known butanol-producing bacteria.... Read more →

MIT researchers modify soil bacterium for biosynthesis of isobutanol using carbon

Researchers at MIT have modified the soil bacterium Ralstonia eutropha to produce isobutanol and 3-methyl-1-butanol (branched-chain higher alcohols). These branched-chain higher alcohols can directly substitute for fossil-based fuels and be employed within the current infrastructure. The work is funded by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency –... Read more →

Cobalt Technologies and Rhodia to build bio n-butanol demonstration facility in Latin America

Cobalt Technologies, a developer of next-generation bio-based chemicals, and specialty chemical company Rhodia, member of the Solvay Group, will begin joint development and operation of a bio-butanol demonstration facility in Brazil. (Earlier post.) This is one more step by the two companies toward the construction of commercial-scale biorefineries using Cobalt’s... Read more →

Gevo and Beta Renewables (Chemtex/TPG) to develop integrated process for cellulosic isobutanol

Gevo, Inc. signed a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) with Beta Renewables, a joint venture between Chemtex and TPG, to develop an integrated process for the production of bio-based isobutanol from cellulosic, non-food biomass. The project would integrate Beta’s PROESA technology and Gevo’s GIFT and ATJ technologies, with anticipated production plants... Read more →

Bio-isobutanol patent struggle: US District Court denies Butamax’s motion for preliminary injunction against Gevo

The US District Court of Delaware has denied the Motion for Preliminary Injunction sought by Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC (Butamax)—the biobutanol joint venture between BP and DuPont—against biobutanol company Gevo. (Case 1:11-cv-00054-SLR) This decision replaces a previous order enjoining Gevo from selling to new customers. Gevo for now is clear... Read more →

Obama Administration releases National Bioeconomy Blueprint; health, food, energy and environment

The White House today released a national Bioeconomy Blueprint, a comprehensive approach to harnessing innovations in biological research to address national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment. In coordination with the Blueprint’s release, Federal officials also announced a number of new commitments to help achieve the Blueprint’s goals.... Read more →

An integrated electromicrobial process to convert CO2 to higher alcohols. Electricity powered the electrochemical CO2 reduction on the cathode to produce formate, which is converted to isobutanol and 3MB by the engineered R. eutropha. Li et al. Click to enlarge. Researchers at UCLA have demonstrated a method for converting carbon... Read more →

Overview of the NAWCWD alcohol-to-jet process. Source: NAWCWD. Click to enlarge. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), China Lake has awarded a contract to Albemarle Corporation to complete the first biojet fuel production run based on bio n-butanol provided by Cobalt Technologies. For this production run, Albemarle will... Read more →

Cobalt Technologies demonstrates capability of biocatalyst conversion of biomass sugars to n-butanol; confirms 40-60% cost reduction compared to petroleum-derived n-butanol

Cobalt Technologies, a developer of next-generation technology for the production of n-butanol, announced the successful demonstration of one of its advanced biocatalysts. Partnering with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Cobalt completed multiple fermentation campaigns in a 9,000 liter fermenter, exceeding the target yield and other... Read more →

Honeywell’s UOP receives $1.1M FAA contract to demonstrate technology for conversion of isobutanol from Gevo to aviation biofuels

UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, was awarded a $1.1 million contract from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) via the US Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center to develop and demonstrate technology that will produce renewable jet fuel from isobutanol supplied by Gevo, Inc. (Earlier post.) The award was one of eight... Read more →

Gevo awarded $5M to develop cellulosic jet fuel; separate contract to supply alcohol-to-jet drop-in biojet fuel to USAF

Gevo, Inc. received a $5-million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the development of biojet fuel from woody biomass and forest product residues. The award is a portion of a $40-million grant presented to the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), a consortium led by Washington State... Read more →

Gevo and Mansfield Oil sign commercial off-take and strategic alliance agreements for renewable isobutanol

Gevo, Inc. has entered into a strategic marketing alliance with Mansfield Oil Company to distribute isobutanol-based fuel into the petroleum market. In addition the companies signed a commercial off-take agreement—Gevo’s second commercial off-take agreement to date and its first in the fuel industry. The agreement has three main component: the... Read more →

Gevo contracts with Arabian American Development to develop hydrocarbon materials from its renewable isobutanol

Arabian American Development Co. (ARSD) has signed a contract with Gevo, Inc., a renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company, to build a renewable hydrocarbon processing demonstration plant at ARSD’s South Hampton Resources, Inc. subsidiary in Silsbee, Texas and to provide Gevo with toll-processing services necessary to process up to 10,000... Read more →

Cathay’s current bio-refinery model using corn starch as feedstock. Click to enlarge. Shanghai-based Cathay Industrial Biotech, a producer of bio-derived n-butanol and of bioprocess-based long-chain dicarboxylic acids (LCDAs) used as chemical intermediates, has filed a form F-1 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in preparation for offering American depositary... Read more →

Univ. of Illinois study argues regulatory hurdles hindering commercialization of new biofuels; biobutanol case study

Regulatory hurdles are hindering the successful commercialization of emerging liquid biofuels, according to a new study by University of Illinois law professor Jay P. Kesan and Timothy A. Slating, a regulatory associate with the University of Illinois Energy Biosciences Institute. Kesan and Slating provide a normative analysis of regulatory schemes... Read more →

Gevo to proceed to jet engine testing of its renewable jet fuel from isobutanol with approval of ASTM alcohol-to-jet task force

Gevo, a renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company, recently announced that it had presented positive test results from fit-for-purpose testing of its renewable kerosene produced from isobutanol to ASTM’s alcohol to jet (ATJ) task force (D02J006 Alcohol to Jet TF). The ATJ task force consists of technical experts from a... Read more →

High-level process schematic for hydrocarbons from isobutanol. Source: Gevo. Click to enlarge. Gevo, Inc., a renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company, signed an engineering and consulting agreement with Mustang Engineering, LP for the conversion of Gevo’s renewable isobutanol to biojet fuel. This effort will focus on the downstream processing of... Read more →

Overview of Cobalt’s process. Click to enlarge. Cobalt Technologies, a company using strain development and bioprocess technology to optimize biobutanol production (earlier post), and American Process Inc. (API) are partnering to build an industrial-scale cellulosic biorefinery to produce biobutanol. Additionally, the companies agreed to jointly market a GreenPower+ Biobutanol solution... Read more →

UCLA researchers engineer E. coli to produce 1-butanol with high titer and high yield

A team of UCLA researchers led by Professor James Liao have engineered Escherichia coli bacteria to produce 1-butanol with high titer (30 g/L) and high yield (70 - 88% of theoretical production) anaerobically, comparable to or exceeding the levels demonstrated by native producers. An open access paper on their work... Read more →

UC Berkeley researchers boost E. Coli butanol production with new enzymatic pathway

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have constructed a chimeric pathway assembled from three different organisms for the high-level production of n-butanol (4,650 ± 720 mg l-1) in E. coli bacteria. The pathway uses an enzymatic chemical reaction mechanism in place of a physical step as a kinetic control... Read more →

Physiomics, Green Biologics Limited and North Energy Associates to develop advanced fermentation process for biobutanol to make it cost competitive with 1st gen biofuels

Physiomics, an Oxford, UK-based systems biology company, Green Biologics Limited (GBL) and North Energy Associates Limited were recently awarded a total grant for £268,000 (US$424,000) from the Carbon Trust for a project to demonstrate an Advanced Fermentation Process for Butanol. The aim is to improve the microbial fermentation process for... Read more →

Cobalt Technologies and US Navy partner on conversion of biobutanol to renewable jet fuel

Cobalt Technologies, a company focused on commercializing biomass-derived biobutanol as a renewable chemical and fuel (earlier post), has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the US Navy to develop technology for the conversion of biobutanol into full performance renewable jet and diesel fuels. Under the CRADA, n-biobutanol... Read more →

Price and cost comparison for sugar- and fatty acid-based feedstocks in the production of biofuels and biochemicals. (a) Prices of raw sugar, palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD) and non-edible tallow on a per-pound of carbon. (b) Feedstock cost per gallon of ethanol produced. Source: Dellomonaco 2010, Supplementary material I. Click... Read more →

Gevo to Acquire Agri-Energy Ethanol Production Facility to Produce Renewable Isobutanol

Gevo, a privately held renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company, has signed definitive agreements to acquire Agri-Energy’s ethanol production facility in Luverne, Minn. for the production of isobutanol. Mechanical retrofitting of the plant will begin upon closing the transaction. Isobutanol production is expected to begin by the first quarter of... Read more →

Gevo’s production process. Click to enlarge. Gevo, a privately held renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company (earlier post), has successfully produced isobutanol from fermentable sugars derived from cellulosic biomass. The company also successfully converted the cellulosic isobutanol into isobutylene and paraffinic kerosene (jet fuel). The production of isobutanol from cellulosic... Read more →

ZeaChem’s process. Click to enlarge. ZeaChem Inc. announced the successful production of ethanol at a capacity that can be scaled to commercial production. ZeaChem currently uses harvested hybrid poplar trees as the feedstock of choice in its combined biochemical and thermochemical process for the production of ethanol. (Earlier post.) A... Read more →

DOE, USDA Announce Up To $33M in Funding for Biomass Research and Development Initiative

The US Departments of Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA) jointly announced up to $33 million in funding, subject to annual appropriations, for the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) to develop biomass feedstocks for the associated production of advanced biofuels (such as biobutanol, renewable hydrocarbons and Fischer-Tropsch fuels), bioenergy and... Read more →

Cobalt Technologies Produces Renewable Biobutanol Fuel From Beetle-Killed Pine

California-based Cobalt Technologies, a company using strain development and bioprocess technology to optimize biobutanol production (earlier post), has successfully produced biobutanol from beetle-killed lodgepole pine feedstock. Cobalt combined a non-enzymatic pretreatment process derived from the pulp and paper industry to release the C5 and C6 sugars from the pine, followed... Read more →

Engineered Yeast Produces Ethanol and Butanol from C5 and C6 Sugars from Biomass Feedstocks

Researchers from Frankfurt University have engineered the common industrial yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to ferment pentose (C5) as well as hexose (C6) sugars derived from biomass feedstock to produce bioethanol and biobutanol. A talk on the work—“Genetic engineering of industrial yeast strains for the production of bioethanol and biobutanol from C5... Read more →

Photo of seaweed used by Bio Architecture Lab. Click to enlarge. The US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded a Technology Investment Agreement to DuPont for the development of a process to convert sugars produced by macroalgae into isobutanol. Bio Architecture Lab (BAL) will be... Read more →

Cobalt Technologies, a company using strain development and bioprocess technology to optimize biobutanol production for commercially viable renewable fuels and chemicals, formally launched its pilot facility in Mountain View, California. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Silicon Valley cleantech leaders were on hand. Cobalt uses non-food feedstock, such as forest waste... Read more →

Overview of Syntec’s B2A process. Click to enlarge. Syntec Biofuel Inc. has entered into a joint development program with the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota (UND) in Grand Forks for converting a wide variety of biomass and waste into bio-butanol. The core process... Read more →

On 19 December, President Obama signed into law the $636.3-billion Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 (H.R. 3326) (earlier post) which provides FY 2010 appropriations for Department of Defense (DOD) military programs. Attached to the bill (now law) are $4.197 billion in 1,719 earmarks—Congressionally directed spending projects. Of those earmarks, about 156... Read more →

Gevo Biobutanol Retrofit Plant Starts Up; Gevo Launches Development Company to Retrofit Ethanol Plants

Gevo, Inc., a biobutanol and renewable hydrocarbons company, announced the start up of its first biobutanol demonstration plant designed from retrofitting an existing demonstration scale ethanol plant to produce biobutanol. (Earlier post.) In successfully producing biobutanol at the 1 million gallon per year pilot plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, Gevo... Read more →

Researchers Develop New Bacterial Strain with Higher Butanol Tolerance; Potential to Double the Output of Biobutanol from Conventional Bacterial Fermentation

Researchers at Ohio State University and Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, have developed a method that can double the output of biobutanol compared to conventional bacterial fermentation through the use of a new strain of bacteria and a new bioreactor. They reported their results... Read more →

31st Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals; Some New Approaches for Producing Butanol

The 31st Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, a special conference of the Society for Industrial Microbiology, began yesterday in San Francisco with its largest group of conferees yet—approximately 850. The academic conference, hosted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), runs through Wednesday and features a large technical... Read more →

Study Finds Strong Synergy Between Spark Ignition Engine Downsizing and Low-to-Moderate Alcohol Blend Fuels

A study by engineers from Mahle Powertrain Ltd and BP found strong synergy between spark ignition (SI) engine downsizing and fuel containing low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol, including ethanol and butanol. The team presented a paper on their work at the recent SAE 2009 World Congress in Detroit. The researchers found... Read more →

Total Invests in Series D Round of Butanol and Renewable Hydrocarbons Company Gevo

Oil and gas major Total has invested an undisclosed amount in the series D round of advanced biofuels company Gevo. Gevo was founded in 2005 by Drs. Frances Arnold, Matthew Peters and Peter Meinhold of the California Institute of Technology. The company is focused on the development of advanced biofuels... Read more →

Diesel Brewing to Manufacture Cellulosic Biobutanol from Biomass and Manure With Thermochemical Process

Oregon-based Diesel Brewing has launched an initiative to manufacture cellulosic biobutanol from biomass and dairy farm manure. Biobutanol can be blended into conventional gasoline or diesel stocks without engine modifications. Compared to ethanol, it has higher energy content, is substantially less corrosive, and can be transported utilizing existing fuel pipelines... Read more →

JBEI Researchers Engineer Yeast to Produce n-Butanol

n-butanol production by the different strains. Click to enlarge. Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), led by Dr. Jay Keasling at UC Berkeley, have engineered the common industrial yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae with an n-butanol biosynthetic pathway, resulting in a ten-fold improvement in n-butanol production from one of the strains... Read more →

Gevo and ICM Ally to Commercialize Production of Butanols and Hydrocarbons From Retrofitted Ethanol Plants

Synthetic networks for non-fermentative alcohol production from glucose in engineered E. coli developed by Dr. Liao at UCLA and licensed by Gevo. The red arrows represent the two-step conversion (KDC/ADH) of 2-keto acids to alcohols. Click to enlarge. Adapted from Atsumi et al. 2008 Gevo, Inc. and ICM, Inc. have... Read more →

Cobalt Biofuels Raises $25 Million to Commercialize Biobutanol

California-based Cobalt Biofuels has raised $25 million in equity to accelerate the commercialization of its cost-effective biochemical process for biobutanol production. Cobalt says that the advantages of its process are based on advances in microbial strain improvement, fermentation reaction management, and separation technology. The Series C equity round was co-led... Read more →

Integrated SSFR Process Could Make Cellulosic Biobutanol More Competitive with Ethanol

Researchers at the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are refining an integrated method of producing cellulosic biobutanol that could make it more competitive with ethanol as an alternative to gasoline. (Earlier post.) Research team leader Nasib Qureshi began investigating the production of cellulosic biobutanol from wheat straw in 2003. His... Read more →