ExxonMobil has partnered with the Renewable Energy Group (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 Co. and REG’s Life Sciences subsidiary.
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 partners’ research will focus on using sugars from non-food sources.
“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,” says Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co.
“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,” says Eric Bowen, REG vice president and head of REG Life Sciences.
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.
“Our first challenge is to determine technical feasibility and potential environmental benefits during the initial research,” continues Swarup. “If the results are positive, we can then take the next step and explore the potential to expand our efforts and explore scalability.”