New Partnership to Research Biodiesel From Cellulosic Sugars

Biodiesel fermentation
Researchers at REG Life Sciences in South San Francisco, CA are working with ExxonMobil to develop biodiesel from cellulosic sugars using REG proprietary technology. (Photo: REG)

ExxonMobil announced an agreement with Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (REG) to study the production of biodiesel by fermenting renewable cellulosic sugars from sources such as agricultural waste.

The agreement is between ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company and REG’s Life Sciences subsidiary. The terms were not disclosed.

REG has developed a patented technology that uses microbes to convert sugars to biodiesel in a one-step fermentation process similar to ethanol manufacturing. The ExxonMobil and REG Life Sciences research will focus on using sugars from non-food sources.

“This research is just one way ExxonMobil is working to identify potential breakthrough technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy supplies and realize other environmental benefits,” said Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. “The science is extremely complex, but we hope to identify new affordable and reliable supplies of energy for the world that do not have a major impact on food supplies.”

“REG has a long history of innovation in the production of advanced biofuels from lower carbon, waste feedstocks,” said Eric Bowen, REG Vice President and head of REG Life Sciences. “We look forward to this collaboration with ExxonMobil to advance our proprietary cellulosic sugar fermentation technology and capitalize on the combined power of cellulosic sugars and microbial fermentation to revolutionize the production of ultra-low carbon, cleaner burning advanced biofuels.”

Through the research, the two companies will be addressing the challenge of how to ferment real-world renewable cellulosic sugars, which contain multiple types of sugars, including glucose and xylose, but also impurities that can inhibit fermentation.

“As we research renewable energy supplies, we are exploring future energy options with a reduced environmental impact,” Swarup said. “Our first challenge is to determine technical feasibility and potential environmental benefits during the initial research. If the results are positive, we can then take the next step and explore the potential to expand our efforts and explore scalability.”

“REG is consistently exploring promising lower cost, lower carbon feedstocks,” Bowen said. “The research we are conducting with ExxonMobil in this program supports our entire Life Sciences product offering, creating the opportunity for lower cost production of lower carbon specialty chemicals, fuels and other products.”

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