BETO Project Improves Production of Renewable Chemical from Cellulosic Feedstocks

October 13, 2015

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Renewable chemical company Genomatica made significant progress toward increasing the range of feedstocks that can be used to commercially produce high-quality bio-based chemicals, in a project funded by the Energy Department’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). Genomatica improved the biochemical conversion of cellulosic sugars to 1,4-butanediol (BDO), a chemical used in products such as hard plastics used in computer keyboards, Invista’s Lycra® spandex, and high-performance fabrics. As part of this work, Genomatica developed a “sugar specification,” which provides pretreatment vendors with specific guidelines that will enable them to produce cellulosic sugars suitable for the commercial production of chemicals. 
Genomatica already produces BDO at commercial scale from conventional sources such as sugar beets or cane sugar, but the improved process would enable the company to produce BDO from non-food-based feedstocks. The process could also be applied to biofuel production to make a cellulosic ethanol facility more commercially viable. Learn more from the Genomatica press release
Bioproducts—products produced using biological resources instead of fossil fuels—are part of BETO’s approach to replace the whole barrel of oil, which includes helping to commercialize renewable chemicals and products. Genomatica’s project was part of a 2011 funding opportunity to advance the technology improvements and process integration needed to produce drop-in, advanced biofuels, and bio-based chemicals. Genomatica presented its work at the BETO 2015 Project Peer Review and released its final project report in June 2015.
BETO funds research, development, and demonstration projects to accelerate the commercialization of sustainable advanced biofuels and bioproducts, in order to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, lower greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, and create new economic opportunities.