The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 29, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that a collaboration between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) resulted in the successful modification of a microorganism to produce a versatile fermentation intermediate that can be upgraded into valuable biobased fuels and chemicals.  NREL’s cellulosic ethanol fermentation organism (Zymomonas mobilis), is capable of exclusively producing 2,3-butanediol (2,3-BDO), which can be catalytically upgraded to a variety of hydrocarbon fuel precursors and valuable chemical co-products.  Techno-economic modeling was performed to study the potential of producing hydrocarbon fuel precursors and co-products in a cost effective manner.  The first breakthrough occurred with genetic modifications to eliminate the ethanol pathways to ensure that sugar metabolism pathways also produced 2,3-BDO.  ORNL continues to explore modifications to its catalytic upgrading system to achieve further process simplifications and cost savings.