Heightened concerns over global warming and the supply, security and price of fossil oil, has led to a resurgence of interest in biological routes to the production of biofuels and chemicals. Butanol is a superior biofuel to ethanol with an existing platform chemical market of >3 M tonne/yr - worth $8 billion. Current attempts to revive a commercial butanol fermentation process are thwarted by: (i) the high cost of the feedstock; (ii) solvent toxicity and; (iii) low titers. Feedstock cost is 60-80% of butanol production, but attempts to use cheap cellulosic substrates are proving challenging. Glycerol on the other hand is a versatile carbon and energy source that is produced at a large scale as a waste product (10% w/w) of the biodiesel industry.
Here, the overall objective is to minimize the cost of biobutanol production by using crude glycerol as feedstock and to further improve the process with respect to butanol titer, yield and productivity. Uniquely, the process organism will be Clostridium pasteurianum, which unlike the traditionally used Clostridium acetobutylicum, produces little (ethanol) or no (acetone) solvent co-products. The project will capitalise on the extensive expertise of Dr Malaviya in bioprocess development and the unique range of ‘state-of-the-art’ metabolic engineering tools available at the host, to maximize biobutanol production from waste glycerol.
The project will lead to complementary exchange of capabilities and knowledge between Europe and India, and the establishment of a long lasting collaboration. The outcome will be an economic and sustainable commercial route to biobutanol that will improve the viability of already existing biodiesel industries in the EU, and elsewhere, by utilizing its principal waste product, glycerol. This will enhance EU competitiveness in the development of second generation biofuels (biodiesel & biobutanol) from renewables and will facilitate the achievement of the EU’s 2020 renewable fuels targets.
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