Optical micrograph of cyanobacteria, similar to those under study by the MOgene-Sandia partnership. (bio.sandia.gov)
On September 19th, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Deputy Director Cheryl Martin announced that 33 breakthrough energy projects will receive ~$66M from ARPA-E under two new programs that provide options for a more sustainable and secure American future.
REMOTE (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy) provides $34M to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel (GTL) for transportation. Deputy Director Martin made the announcement during a roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill that focused on how American ingenuity and strategic public-private partnerships are driving U.S. energy innovation.
Current synthetic GTL conversion approaches are technologically complex and require large, capital-intensive facilities, which limit widespread adoption. The REMOTE program aims to lower GTL conversion costs while enabling the use of low-cost, low-carbon, domestically sourced natural gas.
Sandia partnered with MOgene Green Chemicals, LLC (St. Louis, Missouri) on a REMOTE Technical Approach that was selected for funding: “Sunlight-Assisted Conversion of Methane to Butanol” (~$1.5M). MOgene’s project will engineer a photosynthetic organism for methane conversion that can use energy from both methane and sunlight. Using renewable and readily available solar energy reduces equipment costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Sandians will be engineering enzymes that are capable of activating methane to initiate the metabolic production of butanol, an advanced biofuel with a higher energy density that ethanol. If successful, the MOgene-led partnership will develop a low-carbon-dioxide-emissions technology that produces a liquid fuel from natural gas and sunlight through efficient, low-cost biological conversion.