ExxonMobil to Develop Biofuel from Algae

Texan oil company, ExxonMobil, announced it will begin a partnership with Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) to research and develop next generation biofuels from photosynthetic algae. SGI is a company dedicated to the research and engineering of synthetically produced microorganisms to produce alternative fuels like ethanol and hydrogen.

Under this partnership, ExxonMobil expects to spend over $600 million to achieve its goals. This will include a likely $300 million in internal costs and possibly around $300 million for SGI. This will add to the already $1.5 billion ExxonMobil has spent in the past five years towards improving energy efficiency and reducing green house emissions.

The plan targets obtaining an advanced biofuel from photosynthetic algae that will be compatible with today's gasoline and diesel engines.

After considerable study, we have determined that the potential advantages and benefits of biofuel from algae could be significant. Among other advantages, readily available sunlight and carbon dioxide used to grow the photosynthetic algae could provide greenhouse gas mitigation benefits. Growing algae does not rely on fresh water and arable land otherwise used for food production. And lastly, algae have the potential to produce large volumes of oils that can be processed in existing refineries to manufacture fuels that are compatible with existing transportation technology and infrastructure”, declared Dr. Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company.

The real challenge to creating a viable next generation biofuel is the ability to produce it in large volumes which will require significant advances in both science and engineering”, said Venter, CEO of SGI in the same press release.

Although the initiative is admirable, the auto industry's hard push towards electric cars could leave biofuels lagging behind.
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