Industrial Algae Biofuel Research

Industrial Algae Biofuel Research


Since 2009, ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics have been partners in researching and engineering highly efficient algae strains that convert sunlight and CO2 into renewable high energy density biofuel. Their joint algae biofuel research program now enters a new phase: The companies will start an outdoor field study that will grow naturally occurring algae in several contained ponds in California to better understand fundamental engineering parameters including viscosity and flow. This cannot easily be replicated in a lab.

The results of this work are important to understand how to scale the technology for potential commercial deployment. ExxonMobil anticipates that 10,000 barrels of algae biofuel per day could be produced by 2025 based on research conducted to date and emerging technical capability.

In 2017, Synthetic Genomics published results on a modified algae strain that more than doubled oil accumulation without significantly inhibiting growth [1]. This is a key challenge along the path to commercial scalability.



[1] Imad Ajjawi, John Verruto, Moena Aqui, Leah B Soriaga, Jennifer Coppersmith, Kathleen Kwok, Luke Peach, Elizabeth Orchard, Ryan Kalb, Weidong Xu, Tom J Carlson, Kristie Francis, Katie Konigsfeld, Judit Bartalis, Andrew Schultz, William Lambert, Ariel S Schwartz, Robert Brown, Eric R Moellering, Lipid production in Nannochloropsis gaditana is doubled by decreasing expression of a single transcriptional regulator, Nature Biotechnol. 2017, 35, 647–652.


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