The image above may look like a bag of stale Cheetos, but they are far more than that: E-coli that can help in the process of making renewable propane.
Propane is a relatively clean-burning alternative to fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel. But drilling for propane can damage the environment and in the end adds to the atmosphere’s carbon content.
Converting Waste Biomass & Garbage Into Propane
The US propane market has been in the news over the past several years as its supply and price have been very unstable, with shortages having a negative effect on some sectors of the economy. Coming up with a renewable form of propane for use in furnaces, outdoor grills and to make liquefied natural gas would be a major breakthrough as it would increase overall supply and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
Creating Next Generation Biofuels
Researchers at Imperial College and the University of Turku are developing a renewable form of propane that is created through microbial biosynthesis using the “fermentative butanol pathway.” Until now scientists have not been able to find natural metabolic pathways for renewable biosynthesis.
The process involves using E. coli bacteria, Escherichia coli, derived from human intestines and fatty acid synthesis. Now researchers are working to make the process scalable for commercial production.
Papers on the process have been published in the Journal of Biotechnology for Biofuels and the Journal of Nature Communications. According to the papers, genetically engineered bacterium could also be used and possibly ready for commercial-scale production within the next decade.
One obvious application of renewable propane would be to supply it to automobiles equipped with CNG or propane retrofits.