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Intrexon's methanotroph bioconversion plant opens

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Intrexon Corporation (Intrexon), a leader in synthetic biology, has announced the pilot plant for its proprietary gas to liquids bioconversion platform is operational. The plant, which is located in southern San Francisco, is dedicated to the production of isobutanol, a drop-in fuel with numerous advantages over other clean burning gasoline blendstocks.

"Reaching operational status with our pilot plant is one of several important milestones we expect to reach this year as we continue to move closer to the commercialisation of our ground breaking bioconversion platform for the production of isobutanol," said Robert F. Walsh, Senior Vice President, Head of Intrexon's Energy Sector and Industrial Products Division. "Data from the pilot plant will be utilised to further refine our commercial scale facility design."

Intrexon's methanotroph bioconversion platform is designed to generate high value products from natural gas, the most inexpensive carbon source that can be used for industrial fermentation today. The company's initial target is isobutanol, a gasoline blendstock with several advantages over other biofuels including cleaner burning combustion, less corrosion, more energy content, and compatibility with existing pipelines.

Over the past two years, the company has continuously improved the output of isobutanol from its engineered microbes including a greater than 50% increase since the company's Investor Day in November 2015. This significant progress moves Intrexon closer toward achieving the yield necessary to begin site selection for its first commercial plant, which is expected to occur in 2016. Intrexon Energy Partners remains on target for the potential commercialisation of this valuable biofuel in 2018.

Through its superior yield potential versus other microbes and utilisation of low cost natural gas feedstock, Intrexon's cost effective, single step fermentation process has the potential to drive industry leading margins for the fuels and chemicals it produces. In addition to isobutanol, Intrexon has identified a number of valuable products that can be generated from methane using this approach.

During the 4Q15, Intrexon Energy Partners II, a joint venture with a select group of external investors, was formed to employ the company's platform to produce 1,4-butanediol (BDO), a key chemical intermediate used to manufacture spandex, polyurethane, plastics, as well as polyester. Production of BDO within methanotrophs follows similar metabolic pathways to isobutanol enabling translation of the company's unique know-how and genetic technologies to achieve commercial scale production of this valuable chemical.

Adapted from press release by Francesca Brindle

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