News Latest EBI News: 13 New Projects Funded; Director Sees Commercial Lignocellulosic Fuels Ahead

 

Acetone-Butanol-Ethanol (ABE) fermentation, enabled by bacteria, will receive a closer look as a potentially productive source of renewable, drop-in diesel and platform chemicals at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) this year in 5 of the 13 newly funded projects in the scientific partnership. As reported in the just-published EBI Bulletin quarterly newsletter, the set of new investigations also includes a focus on fermentation hygiene, which is critical to the effectiveness of bioprocessing and product yields.

In the same issue (Winter 2014), EBI Director Chris Somerville offers a commentary that heralds the arrival of commercial lignocellulosic ethanol at several biofuel plants this year, as well as the excitement of future challenges that the milestone has stimulated. "The task now is to develop the many improvements that will ensure the technology is economically competitive with other sources of fuels without subsidies, and environmentally sustainable," Somerville writes. "Hopefully, these signs of tangible progress (the new plant openings) will reinvigorate the interest in both the investment community and governments around the world, who seem to have wearied of the waiting for lignocellulosic fuels to arrive."

Now in its seventh year of a 10-year commitment by funding partner BP, the EBI currently has 62 active program and projects engaged in varied investigations involving the application of biology tools and techniques to the world's energy challenge. The studies are as diverse as feedstock cultivation and harvest, sugar separation from plant cells, biofuel production, and the social, economic and environmental impacts of a bio-based energy industry. EBI researchers are also looking at ways to make oil extraction from current wells more productive and environmentally friendly. The public-private research partnership includes BP, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

All 13 new projects are described in the Bulletin, which can be read online or in print form. Other features in this issue include coverage of the recent Art-in-Science Exhibition at the EBI's Berkeley faciliity, a story about the EBI magazine's new website, bioenergyconnection.org, and BP's latest annual Sustainability Report that emphasizes biofuels as an important part of its strategy to meet the world's energy challenges in the coming years. To read the issue, go to www.energybiosciencesinstitute.org and click on the "New EBI Read" icon. If you wish to receive a free printed copy, send a request with mailing address to sleblovic@berkeley.edu

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