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Home » Business News/Analysis, California, Delaware, Energy, Federal Agency, grants, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Policy, Process, R & D Focus, Washington

ARPA-E Awards $34M in R&D for Advanced Liquid Fuels from Methane

Submitted by on September 20, 2013 – 12:54 pmNo Comment

by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest)  In Washington, the US Department of Energy announced that 15 breakthrough energy projects will receive approximately $34 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) via the REMOTE program (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy), seeking to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation.

REMOTE will address the transformation of gas-to-liquid technologies. Current synthetic gas-to-liquids conversion approaches are technologically complex and require large, capital-intensive facilities, which limit widespread adoption. This program aims to lower the cost of GTL conversion while enabling the use of low-cost, low-carbon, domestically sourced natural gas.

In all, 15 projects in 9 states nabbed preliminary awards, which are subject to negotiation.

Overall, the awards have dipped some 70% deeper into the DOE kitty — suggestive that there is increased emphasis at DOE on using methane for transport fuel — and that breakthrough technologies are required — and possibly available.

The largest single award, $4.00 million, went to a LanzaTech-led team including The City University of New York, Louisiana State University and Michigan Technological University.

The bioconversion challenge

To give an example, a hypothetical methanotrophic bacterium that synthesizes n-butanol from methane has two problems: methane is activated inefficiently (66%) and then formaldehyde is converted into fuel inefficiently (78%). Thus, even if an organism fully leveraged the most recent developments in synthetic biology and industrial biotechnology, bioconversion through MMO will have difficulty being cost effective or disruptive to the fuel market.

“On the technology side, methane (like CO and H2) is an insoluble but energy-rich gas,” LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren told the Digest, as she took us through the world of ARPA-E. “Our platform is based on fermenting these gases using microbes, meaning that methane fermentation is substantially similar to the industrial off-gas and syngas fermentation LanzaTech is already doing. Our strategy is to focus on low-cost or waste resources and the US is now a world leader in low-cost natural gas, with certain locations currently flaring gas that cannot be delivered to pipelines. In addition, biogas is available for large municipal landfills in volumes applicable to fermentation.

“As always, we are focused on waste/residue streams not “virgin” streams,” she noted. “You would be amazed at how much natural gas is currently being flared because it isn’t economic to move it to a pipeline. Ethanol, lipids other liquids enable economic movement of the natural gas. In fact- think of these as better ways to move the BTUs around.


High-Efficiency Biological Methane Activation

Arzeda Corp.
Seattle, WA
New Metalloenzymes for Methane Activation


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Berkeley, CA
Enzyme Engineering for Direct Methane Conversion


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Berkeley, CA
Enzyme Engineering for Direct Methane Conversion


MOgene Green Chemicals LLC
St. Louis, MO
Sunlight-Assisted Conversion of Methane to Butanol


Northwestern University
Evanston, IL
Multicopper Oxidases for Methane Activation


Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA
Methane-to-Acetate Pathway for Liquid Fuel


University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
Anaerobic Bioconversion of Methane to Methanol


High Efficiency Biological Synthesis of Liquid Fuels


Coskata, Inc.
Warrenville, IL
Activated Methane to Butanol


Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA
Single-Step Methane Activation and Conversion to Liquid Fuels


University of California, Davis
Davis, CA
Biosynthetic Conversion of Ethylene to Butanol


University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
Efficient Condensation Cycle for Methanol to Liquid Fuel


University of Delaware
Newark, DE
Engineered Bioconversion of Methanol to Liquid Fuel


Process Intensification Approaches for Biological Methane Conversion

Calysta Energy
Menlo Park, CA
New Bioreactor Designs for Rapid Methane Fermentation


GreenLight Biosciences
Medford, MA
Cell-Free Bioconversion for Access to Remote Natural Gas Sources


LanzaTech, Inc.
Roselle, IL
Bioreactor Design to Improve the Transfer of Methane to Microorganisms


Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR
Bio-Lamina-Plates Bioreactor for Enhanced Mass and Heat Transfer  READ MORE and MORE (The Washington Times)


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