Intrexon Makes Farnesene from Methane: Hot Route to Low-Cost Jet Fuels and Diesels?
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) Second Product of Intrexon’s Proprietary Bioconversion Platform Following Isobutanol Who’s happy, who’s bumming — and how far along is the work, really? The Digest looks at Intrexon’s breakthrough. Gas-to-Liquids approach significantly more cost-efficient versus conventional methods, company says.
… This is the second product, following isobutanol, which Intrexon has upgraded from natural gas employing its unique cellular engineering capabilities.
Background on the technology
To achieve industrial-scale bioconversion of natural gas to chemicals, lubricants and fuels, Intrexon is developing microbial cell lines genetically enhanced to convert methane to higher carbon content compounds at ambient temperatures and pressures, thereby reducing the significant expenditures compared to standard gas-to-liquid (GTL) processes. Traditional conversion platforms rely on costly thermochemical catalytic processes, such as the Fischer-Tropsch method of carbon upgrading, or depend on available sugar-based technologies or plant-based feedstocks, which are expensive sources of carbon.
Well, there’s Amyris, and there’s Calysta. The former is making farnesene from sugar — where the carbon is twice as expensive or more. The latter has been training methanotrophs to make fascinating molecules but hadn’t quite (that is to say, publicly) cracked the fuel markets (i.e. the Mother of All Markets).
The big winners in prospect
Well, think airlines, down the line. Biofuels are much better than natgas on renewable attributes, but airlines need fuels now, not later, and “cleaner, at scale” might well temporarily trump “cleanest, but as yet unaffordable and unavailable”. READ MORE and MORE (Intrexon)