IRVING, TX --- Exxon Mobil Corp. said it has formed an alliance with biotech company Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) to research and develop biofuels from photosynthetic algae.
"We believe that biofuel produced by algae could be a meaningful part of the solution in the future if our efforts result in an economically viable, low net carbon emission transportation fuel," said Dr. Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co.
ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co. has entered into a research and development alliance with SGI, a privately held company. Under the program, if research and development milestones are successfully met, ExxonMobil expects to spend more than $600 million, which includes $300 million in internal costs and potentially more than $300 million to SGI.
"This agreement between SGI and EMRE represents a comprehensive, long-term research and development exploration into the most efficient and cost-effective organisms and methods to produce next-generation algal biofuel," said J. Craig Venter, founder and CEO of SGI. "We are confident that the combination of our respective expertise in science, research, engineering and scale-up should unlock the power of algae as biological energy producers in methods and scale not previously explored."
Photosynthetic algae, which include microalgae (single celled algae) and cyanobacteria (most commonly known as blue-green algae), are organisms that are very efficient at using the energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into cellular oils (lipids) and even some types of long-chain hydrocarbons that can be further processed into fuels and chemicals. However, naturally occurring algae do not carry out this process at the efficiencies or rates necessary for commercial-scale production of biofuels.
"The real challenge to creating a viable next-generation biofuel is the ability to produce it in large volumes, which will require significant advances in both science and engineering," said Venter. "The alliance between SGI and ExxonMobil will bring together the complementary capabilities and expertise of both companies to develop innovative solutions that could lead to the large-scale production of biofuel from algae."