Martek teams with BP to develop fermented biofuels

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

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Martek Biosciences is joining forces with petrochemicals giant BP to develop microbial biofuels derived from sugar feedstocks, and employing Martek’s lipid-based technologies.

BP will invest €7m initially as the companies work to maximise the omega-3 DHA specialist's microbial know-how and BP’s production and commercialisation experience via fermentation.

Intellectual property developed by the joint venture will be owned by BP, but Martek gains an exclusive licence for any applications and commercialisation in nutrition, cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications.

The project is based on the idea of converting sustainable, biomass-derived sugars into lipids using Martek’s fermentation microorganisms. After that, the lipids are converted into fuel molecules through chemical or thermocatalytic processes.

Such processes are said to reduce greenhouse emissions by 80-90 per cent compared to traditional fossil fuels.

The feedstocks include sugar cane, sugar cane waste (bagasse), energy grass and woodchips, with the end-product potentially suitable for diesel and jet-fuel use.

"Martek is pleased to partner with BP's Alternative Energy team, to combine our unique algae-based technologies and intellectual property for the creation of sustainable and affordable technology for microbial biofuel production,"​ said Martek chief executive officer, Steve Dubin,

BP Biofuels CEO, Philip New, said the partnership could provide alternatives to vegetable oil-derived biofuels.

"In partnering with Martek, we combine the world's leading know-how in microbial lipid production with our expertise in fuels markets and applications, and our more recent experience in biofuels production and commercialisation,” ​New said.

"This technology is also a perfect fit with our other strategic choices for biofuels, all based on sustainable feedstocks and fermentation to produce advanced biofuels. It is part of our approach of integrating sugar cane and lignocellulosic biofuels with advanced technologies to produce products with a wide range of uses."

Under the arrangement, Martek will carry out biotechnology research, while BP will focus on, “integration within the biofuels value chain.”​ The two companies will draw payments from commercial developments in the other party’s field.

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