• 4 minutes U.S. Shale Output may Start Dropping Next Year
  • 8 minutes Read: OPEC WILL KILL US SHALE
  • 12 minutes Tidal Power Closer to Commercialisation
  • 16 minutes Washington Eyes Crackdown On OPEC
  • 1 hour Trump to Make Allies Pay More to Host US Bases
  • 13 hours Why U.S. Growers Are Betting The Farm On Soybeans Amid China Trade War
  • 16 hours THE DEATH OF FOSSIL FUEL MARKETS
  • 8 hours Solar to Become World's Largest Power Source by 2050
  • 21 hours Sounds Familiar: Netanyahu Tells Arab Citizens They’re Not Real Israelis
  • 1 day Can OPEC CUT PRODUCTION FOREVER?
  • 1 day War on Emissions Gains Traction
  • 2 days European Parliament demands Nord-Stream-ii pipeline to be Stopped
  • 2 days Will Trump Cave Again
  • 13 hours Exxon Aims For $15-a-Barrel Costs In Giant Permian Operation
  • 3 hours Biomass, Ethanol No Longer Green
  • 21 hours this is why Climate Friendly Agendas Tread Water
U.S.-China Trade Deal Driven By Energy Exports

U.S.-China Trade Deal Driven By Energy Exports

U.S. energy exports appear to…

Was 2018 The Peak For Crude Oil Production?

Was 2018 The Peak For Crude Oil Production?

As OPEC production continues to…

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Joe Romm is a Fellow at American Progress and is the editor of Climate Progress, which New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called "the indispensable…

More Info

Scientists Create Completely Renewable Propane

A team of British and Finnish scientists have figured out how to make small amounts of propane using Escherichia coli (E. coli), the naturally-occurring, diverse group of bacteria most commonly known for causing food poisoning symptoms when ingested.

The propane, created from a genetically engineered version of the bacterium, is completely renewable and could be ready for commercial production within 10 years, according to the team, which published a study on the discovery Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. The propane can be used the same way regular propane is used — for furnaces, outdoor grills, and to make liquefied natural gas — except instead of being derived from fossil fuels, it would be derived from a renewable source.

“Although we have only produced tiny amounts so far, the fuel we have produced is ready to be used in an engine straight away,” researcher Patrik Jones, the lead author of the study, said in a statement. “This opens up possibilities for future sustainable production of renewable fuels that at first could complement, and thereafter replace fossil fuels like diesel, petrol, natural gas and jet fuel.”

E. coli has long been looked at as a bacterium that could be used to make renewable fuel, because of its ability to produce fatty acids. Indeed, conventional biodiesels are comprised of long chain fatty acids, usually derived from vegetable oils or animal fats.

But the bacterium’s ability to make fatty acids wasn’t enough to make the propane. In order to do that, the scientists from Imperial College in London and the University of Turku in Finland had to take genes from a group of separate enzymes and engineer them into the E. coli. That process eventually “tricked” the bacteria into making propane instead of cell membranes.

Genetically engineered E. coli has already been used along with blue-green algae to make biofuel, though Jones noted to the Guardian that that fuel is “not commercially viable.” That’s because of the cost of harvesting and processing the algae, Jones said, and the fact that large-scale infrastructure does not currently exist for biofuels.

That’s why Jones’ team chose to work on propane, he said, because “it can be separated from the natural process with minimal energy and it will be compatible with the existing infrastructure for easy use.” It is also easily converted from liquid to gas and back, making it easy to transport.

Jones acknowledges that there are still many steps to take before E. coli-created propane can become commercially viable — most importantly, the current high cost of making the fuel, considering the amount of propane the bacteria can make is only about one thousandth of what would be commercially viable today. “Given the availability and low cost of fossil fuels, a major challenge for all novel renewable fuel production concepts is to achieve economically sustainable well-to-wheel systems,” the study reads.

Still, Jones said the fact that his team’s research proves that propane can indeed be made from a renewable process is encouraging. The discovery is one step closer to his ultimate goal, which is being able to use the genetically engineered system to convert solar energy into a propane-like chemical fuel.

“At the moment, we don’t have a full grasp of exactly how the fuel molecules are made, so we are now trying to find out exactly how this process unfolds,” he said. “I hope that over the next 5 to 10 years we will be able to achieve commercially viable processes that will sustainably fuel our energy demands.”

By. Emily Atkin of Climate Progress



Join the discussion | Back to homepage

Leave a comment

Leave a comment

Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News