Research projects in EESA’s Bioenergy Program apply synthetic biology, bioengineering, and microbiology to foster renewable fuel production. Key themes of the Bioenergy Program include: (1) developing novel biofuel pathways in bacteria, (2) exploiting microbial metabolic diversity for biofuel production and lignocellulose deconstruction, and (3) mitigating petroleum souring.

Highlights

ARPA-E partner logo's
Project

ARPA-E—Methylase Project

EESA’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) effort, the Methylase Project, aims to develop biological systems for direct conversion of CO2 or CH4 to liquid transportation fuels. Methane is the main component of gaseous/solid fossil fuel resources, and constitutes one of the largest organic carbon reserves.

Project

ARPA-E Microbial Electrocatalysis (Electrofuels)

As part of the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) program for research on microorganisms that can produce liquid fuels without using petroleum or biomass, a Berkeley Lab-EESA team engineered strains of a common soil bacterium, Ralstonia eutropha, to produce drop-in replacements for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel using only hydrogen and carbon dioxide as inputs.

Project

Biofuels Pathways (JBEI)

Researchers in the Biofuels Pathways Group discover naturally occurring enzymes that, when integrated with metabolic pathways for biofuel precursors (such as fatty acids), enable engineered microbes to synthesize advanced biofuels. A genome-enabled approach is used to study both pure bacterial cultures and natural microbial communities known to produce the biofuels of interest.

Project

Microbial Communities (JBEI)

The Microbial Communities research team prospects for new enzymes that can efficiently deconstruct lignocellulosic biomass. Group members take samples from such places as rain forest floors and composts. From these samples, specific microbes and enzymes are identified, isolated, and manipulated, and a suite of “omics” tools is used for genome-level community characterization.

souring systems
Project

Souring Systems: Petroleum Microbiology

In this work, EESA scientists are using biology to develop ways of accessing oil and coal that expend less energy and release fewer greenhouse gases. For instance, biological processes might be used to coax oil from below ground or to alter the semi-porous rock that holds oil, making it flow to the surface. Making it easier to access hard-to-reach domestic oil reserves will help ensure that oil remains part of a diverse mix of energy choices.

Project

A Systems-Biology Approach to Energy Flow in H2-Producing Microbial Communities (ESD–LLNL Collaboration)

This research aims to develop an integrated analysis of energy flow in complex microbial communities. We are combining biogeochemical, stable isotope probing, metatranscriptomic and computational approaches, to understand nutrient cycling and biofuel (H2) production production in complex microbial communities. A comprehensive understanding of such communities is needed to develop efficient, industrial-scale processes for microbial H2 production and lignocellulose degradation.

Overview

Research projects in EESA’s Bioenergy Program apply synthetic biology, bioengineering, and microbiology to foster renewable fuel production. Key themes of the Bioenergy Program include: (1) developing novel biofuel pathways in bacteria, (2) exploiting microbial metabolic diversity for biofuel production and lignocellulose deconstruction, and (3) mitigating petroleum souring in reservoirs caused by sulfidogenic microbes.  Recently and currently funded projects in the EESA Bioenergy program encompass a wide range of scope, scale, and funding sources. Such projects include: two DOE ARPA-E projects aimed at developing microbiological systems for direct conversion of CO2 or CH4 to liquid transportation fuels; a project funded by the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) that addresses souring of petroleum reservoirs by sulfidogenic microbes; EESA-led research at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) on designing novel biofuel pathways and exploring microbial diversity for lignocellulosic deconstruction.

Key sponsors of the Bioenergy Program include DOE ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy), DOE Genomic Science Program (JBEI), and the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI). Industry sponsorship of projects in this program is significant and growing (e.g., from Kiverdi, Inc.), as the emphasis is on establishing biotechnology-to-market plans.

Featured Projects

Project

A Systems-Biology Approach to Energy Flow in H2-Producing Microbial Communities (ESD–LLNL Collaboration)

This research aims to develop an integrated analysis of energy flow in complex microbial communities. We are combining biogeochemical, stable isotope probing, metatranscriptomic and computational approaches, to understand nutrient cycling and biofuel (H2) production production in complex microbial communities. A comprehensive understanding of such communities is needed to develop efficient, industrial-scale processes for microbial H2 production and lignocellulose degradation.

Project

ARPA-E Microbial Electrocatalysis (Electrofuels)

As part of the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) program for research on microorganisms that can produce liquid fuels without using petroleum or biomass, a Berkeley Lab-EESA team engineered strains of a common soil bacterium, Ralstonia eutropha, to produce drop-in replacements for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel using only hydrogen and carbon dioxide as inputs.

ARPA-E partner logo's
Project

ARPA-E—Methylase Project

EESA’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) effort, the Methylase Project, aims to develop biological systems for direct conversion of CO2 or CH4 to liquid transportation fuels. Methane is the main component of gaseous/solid fossil fuel resources, and constitutes one of the largest organic carbon reserves.

Project

Biofuels Pathways (JBEI)

Researchers in the Biofuels Pathways Group discover naturally occurring enzymes that, when integrated with metabolic pathways for biofuel precursors (such as fatty acids), enable engineered microbes to synthesize advanced biofuels. A genome-enabled approach is used to study both pure bacterial cultures and natural microbial communities known to produce the biofuels of interest.

Project

Microbial Communities (JBEI)

The Microbial Communities research team prospects for new enzymes that can efficiently deconstruct lignocellulosic biomass. Group members take samples from such places as rain forest floors and composts. From these samples, specific microbes and enzymes are identified, isolated, and manipulated, and a suite of “omics” tools is used for genome-level community characterization.

souring systems
Project

Souring Systems: Petroleum Microbiology

In this work, EESA scientists are using biology to develop ways of accessing oil and coal that expend less energy and release fewer greenhouse gases. For instance, biological processes might be used to coax oil from below ground or to alter the semi-porous rock that holds oil, making it flow to the surface. Making it easier to access hard-to-reach domestic oil reserves will help ensure that oil remains part of a diverse mix of energy choices.

Primary Sponsors