Sugars from non-food biomass can be used as building blocks to manufacture a wide variety of biofuels and renewable chemicals that are currently produced from expensive and price-volatile petroleum feedstocks. The advanced biofuels market is estimated to grow to 21 billion gallons by 2022, based on the U.S. Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
Traditional sugar fermentation processes to produce biofuels and renewable chemicals use either sucrose from sugarcane or starch from corn, sorghum, or wheat. Agrivida’s engineered biomass provides greater price stability for raw materials, uses less energy in producing biofuels and renewable chemicals via fermentation and enables production with dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions.
INzyme™ technology from Agrivida, a novel approach to synthetic biology, provides processors and biorefiners the ability to directly control dormant biodegrading enzymes that have been engineered into the biomass. After harvest, these enzymes are activated in a way that greatly reduces the energy, chemical and other pretreatments traditionally required to convert the plant material to sugar. Agrivida’s INzyme™ technology decreases a critical bottleneck in bioproducts production, allowing significantly improved production, reducing the cost and quantity of enzymes needed to produce cellulosic biofuels and renewable chemicals and reducing production facility capital and operating costs.
Ultimately, INzyme™ technology from Agrivida will allow consumers to fully realize the potential of a replacement for petroleum-based biofuels and renewable chemicals that have significant benefits in greater national security through reduced dependence on imported petroleum, lower greenhouse gas emissions and significant agricultural and manufacturing jobs creation. Importantly, Agrivida anticipates that its technology platform will provide consumers a considerable cost savings between 70 and 80 cents per gallon of biofuels produced.
Creating Economic Advantage for a Commonly Used Chemical
Adipic acid is a valuable chemical intermediate used in production of nylon for well-established markets like automotive parts, footwear, and construction materials. The current market for adipic acid is approximately $5.2 billion. Current petrochemical processes for the production of adipic acid generate as much as 4.0 tons of CO2 equivalents per ton of adipic acid produced. A biobased process could reduce the production costs of adipic acid by 20 percent or more.
Verdezyne is developing a cost-advantaged, environmentally friendly fermentation process for adipic acid. The company’s proprietary metabolic pathway can utilize sugar, plant-based oils or alkanes, and the company has completed proof-of-concept testing for fatty acids and alkanes. The potential benefit of this feedstock flexible approach is the ability to maintain a sustainable economic advantage regardless of future energy volatility and to reduce the environmental footprint for producing adipic acid.
Adipic acid is not produced in nature. Verdezyne’s novel combinatorial approach to pathway engineering rapidly creates and harnesses genetic diversity to optimize a metabolic pathway. Rather than manipulating one pathway gene at a time, the company uses synthetic gene libraries to introduce diversity into a metabolic pathway. The company’s unique computational and synthetic biology toolbox allows effective design, synthesis and expression of synthesized genes in a heterologous recombinant yeast microorganism.
Producing Biofuels and Renewable Chemicals as Petroleum Alternatives
Diesel is the most widely used liquid fuel in the world. This energy dense fuel supports the transport of 70 percent of U.S. commercial goods and is in high demand in the developing world to support the heavy equipment (trucks, bulldozers, trains, etc) required for infrastructure development. Today there is no cost effective renewable alternative to diesel.
LS9 has developed a platform technology that leverages the natural efficiency of microbial fatty acid biosynthesis to produce a diversity of drop-in fuels and chemicals. Using synthetic biology, LS9 has developed microbial cells that can perform a one-step conversion of renewable carbohydrates (sugars) to two diesel alternatives, a fatty acid methyl ester (biodiesel ASTM 6751) and an alkane (ASTM D975).
The LS9 processes are unique in that all of the chemical conversions from carbohydrate to finished fuel are catalyzed in the cell, with the finished product secreted. The fuel forms an immiscible light organic phase that is non-toxic to the organism and is easily recovered from the broth through centrifugation. There is no need for further chemical conversion, and there is no requirement for hydrogen in the process. These simple processes enable the production of diesel from scalable renewable resources at a price competitive with petroleum (without subsidy).