Biopetroleum: a Renewable, Fully-Equivalent Replacement for Light Sweet Crude Oil
Develop a biopetroleum, derived from marine microorganisms, that matches the composition of "light sweet" crude oil, and so is fully compatible with the existing petroleum industry infrastructure.
Sponsor: Solazyme, Inc.571 Eccles Avenue
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Renewable, domestically produced biofuels are being developed to provide an environmentally sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Current biofuel options, however, produce ethanol, which is largely incompatible with the nation's existing petrochemical infrastructure, a $4 trillion investment from refineries to distribution networks to petrochemical plants and automobile and aircraft engines. Solazyme has proposed a project to develop a new kind of biofuel: biopetroleum. Biopetroleum will be produced from marine microorganisms (algae) and will match the composition of "light sweet" crude oil. This means that it would be fully compatible with the vast infrastructure that refines, distributes retails and consumes petroleum products—not just automobile fuels but the more demanding applications of aviation fuel and chemical plants. Adopting biopetroleum to meet even a fraction of the nation's renewable energy goals could avoid a costly duplication of infrastructure and save consumers and industry an estimated $20 billion a year (compared with other biofuels), potentially growing to as much as $120 billion a year. Biopetroleum will require an industrial scale biofermentation process that can produce pure, long-chain hydrocarbons efficiently. Developing this process entails significant technical risks. ATP funding is expected to accelerate the project by four years.