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Methanol Fermentation in Clostridium Bacteria

Coskata
Activated Methane to Butanol
Image of Coskata's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$0
Location: 
Warrenville, IL
Project Term: 
01/15/2014 to 06/13/2014
Project Status: 
CANCELLED
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Natural gas can be found in abundance throughout the United States, and is often used for heating, cooking, and electrical power generation. Natural gas is composed primarily of methane, an energy-rich compound not widely used for transportation. Currently, there are no commercially viable biological approaches to convert methane into liquid fuel, and synthetic approaches are expensive and inefficient at small scales. To take advantage of the country's remote, off-shore natural gas resources, new biological processes that use special microorganisms called "biocatalysts" are needed to transform methane into liquid fuel. These small-scale processes could be carbon neutral or better, providing a clear environmental advantage over traditional fuels.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Coskata is engineering methanol fermentation into an anaerobic microorganism to enable a low-cost biological approach for liquid fuel production. Currently, the most well-known processes available to convert methane into fuel are expensive and energy-intensive. Coskata is constructing strains of the anaerobic bacteria to efficiently and cost-effectively convert activated methane to butanol, an alcohol that can be used directly as part of a fuel blend. Coskata's process involves molecular genetics to introduce and control specific genes, and to inactivate undesired pathways, together with fermentation optimization of constructed strains. Further, the team will work to increase the tolerance of these strains to high concentrations of butanol, an essential element of the technology.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, Coskata's technology will enable the rapid microbial conversion of methanol to fuel with high carbon and energy efficiency. In addition, Coskata's technology could integrate with other technologies that activate methane to methanol.
Security: 
An improved bioconversion process could create cost-competitive liquid fuels significantly reducing demand for foreign oil.
Environment: 
This technology would allow for utilization of small-scale remote natural gas resources or methane and carbon rich gas residues for fuel production reducing harmful emissions associated with conventional fuel technologies.
Economy: 
Expanding U.S. natural gas resources via bioconversion to liquid fuels could contribute tens of billions of dollars to the nation's economy while reducing or stabilizing transport fuel prices.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Ramon Gonzalez
Project Contact: 
Mr. Anthony Gatenby
Release Date: 
9/19/2013