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 natural gas resources, such as off-shore methane, new biological processes that use special microorganisms called “biocatalysts” are needed to transform methane into liquid fuel. These small-scale processes could provide an environment advantage since they would be carbon neutral or better relative to traditional fuels.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
The team from Arzeda will use computational enzyme design tools and their knowledge of biological engineering and chemistry to create new synthetic enzymes to activate methane. Organisms that are capable of using methane as an energy and carbon source are typically difficult to engineer. To address this challenge, Arzeda will develop technologies essential to creating modular enzymes that can be used in other organisms. The team will combine computation enzyme design with experimental methods to improve enzyme activity and help direct methane more effectively into metabolism for fuel production. Arzeda’s new enzymes could transform the way methane is activated, and would be more efficient than current chemical and biological approaches.
If successful, Arzeda’s enzymes will efficiently activate methane for cost-effective fuel production, and could also be applied to a variety of other synthesis processes for fuels and chemicals.
An improved bioconversion process could create cost-competitive liquid fuels significantly reducing demand for foreign oil.
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.
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.