During the Advanced Biofuels and Biorefinery Platforms breakout session at the BIO Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy attendees had the opportunity to learn more about converting greenhouse gases (GHG) to achieving a fuel and climate solution.
Richard Altman, Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), started off the session with focusing on how to achieve aviation carbon neutral growth by 2020 via sustainable biofuels. CAAFI is working to meet this goal through the Farm to Fly program. The Farm to Fly program is working to enable commercially viable sustainable bio jet fuel supply chains in the U.S. by working to eliminate the environmental based growth constraints for aviation. CAAFI knows that in to order to achieve this goal of achieving carbon neutral growth by 202 biofuels must be a part of the solution. While there is no silver bullet to reach the billion gallons of capacity, CAAFI is achieving success by diversifying the feedstocks and process regionally.
Furthering the discussion on drop in products, Dan Robertson discussed that using a photosynthetic organism, Joule created a continuous process that synthesizes and recovers products simultaneously, taking a systems approach to achieve an economic, scalable process. Process economics depends entirely on energy conversion efficiencies. Joule is able to achieve success with an engineered catalyst. Joule utilizes a metabolic pathway for drop-in products. The ethanol and alkane production property pathway is customised to produce specific chain lengths (C11 and C15-C17). Based upon their demonstration facility in Hobbs, NM combined with industry research, Joule has determined that if they had 1,000 plants, they would be able to produce 1.1 million barrels per day of clean, renewable, drop-in diesel, reducing SOx, NOx, and VOCs.
Further integrating sustainability into the discussion, Josh Silverman, Calysta, Inc., addressed food and energy security. According the WWF, sustainability is defined as something that improves the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems. Calysta focuses on producing food, chemicals, and fuels from methane. Methane is considered an advantaged feedstock based on its homogenous, infrastructure, low impact, climate, and sustainable attributes. Using an integrated bioplatform, Calysta is able to support multiple products. The platform takes methane, oxygen, ammonia, and minerals and with the assistance of proprietary engineered organisms allows for the production of products that are normally produced with biology, this utilization of methanotrophs is what differentiates Calysta. Calysta continues to be the leader of innovative uses for methane, building a sustainable platform for food, fuels, and chemicals from an abundant resource.
Moderator Kasiviswanathan Muthukumarappan, South Dakota State University (SDSU), closed the session by discussing his research on oil extraction technologies for jet fuel production. The majority of oil seeds are extracted using hexane; however, hexane emissions negatively impact the environment. SDSU is working to find an effective alternative for extraction. The objective of Muthukumarappan’s work is to evaluate and compare solvent extraction, cold press, and novel continuous extraction, for efficiently extracting oils from different non-food oilseeds for further conversion into aviation fuels. Looking at the three extraction methods, SDSU is researching how oil can be recovered and the quality based upon the extraction method. The research thus far has found that different oilseeds require different extraction conditions. The outcomes are dependent on the extraction speed and time which in turn impacts the oil yield and properties.
With continued research, development, and technological advances, Pacific Rim attendess have learned that the biotech industry is on the right track to address some of the more complex problems of our time.