U.S.-based Intrexon Corporation announced that the pilot plant for its proprietary gas-to-liquids bioconversion platform is now operational. The plant, which is located in South San Francisco, is dedicated to the production of isobutanol, a drop-in fuel with numerous advantages over other clean-burning gasoline blendstocks.
The company expects to start site selection for its first commercial plant this year and remains on-target for the potential commercialization of this valuable biofuel in 2018.
“Reaching operational status with our pilot plant is one of several important milestones we expect to reach this year as we continue to move closer to commercialization of our ground-breaking bioconversion platform for the production of isobutanol,” said Robert F. Walsh, senior vice president, head of Intrexon’s Energy Sector and Industrial Products Division. “Data from the pilot plant will be utilized to further refine our commercial scale facility design.”
Last year, Intrexon Energy Partners II, a joint venture with a select group of external investors, was formed to employ the company’s platform to produce 1,4-butanediol (BDO), a key chemical intermediate used to manufacture spandex, polyurethane, plastics, as well as polyester. Production of BDO within methanotrophs follows similar metabolic pathways to isobutanol, enabling translation of the company’s unique know-how and genetic technologies to achieve commercial-scale production of this valuable chemical.
Intrexon’s methanotroph bioconversion platform is designed to generate high-value products from natural gas, the most inexpensive carbon source that can be used for industrial fermentation today. The company’s initial target is isobutanol, a gasoline blendstock with several advantages over other biofuels including cleaner burning combustion, less corrosion, more energy content, and compatibility with existing pipelines.
Through its superior yield potential versus other microbes and utilization of low-cost natural gas feedstock, Intrexon’s cost-effective, single-step fermentation process has the potential to drive industry-leading margins for the fuels and chemicals it produces, the company said. In addition to isobutanol, Intrexon has identified a number of valuable products that can be generated from methane using this approach.