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January 23, 2019

ExxonMobil, REG and Clariant team on cellulosic biofuel research

ExxonMobil and Renewable Energy Group (REG) have signed a joint research agreement with Clariant to evaluate the potential use of cellulosic sugars from sources such as agricultural waste and residues to produce biofuel.

By Rhodri Morgan

ExxonMobil and Renewable Energy Group (REG) have signed a joint research agreement with Clariant to evaluate the potential use of cellulosic sugars from sources such as agricultural waste and residues to produce biofuel.

The new partnership expands a previously-announced agreement for joint research between ExxonMobil and REG, in which the companies successfully validated the ability of REG Life Sciences bio-conversion technology to convert sugars from cellulosic biomass into biodiesel through a single-step process.

The new agreement with Clariant allows ExxonMobil and REG to further optimise REG’s bio-conversion process using previously tested and benchmarked cellulosic sugars created through Clariant’s sunliquid process. The companies’ ultimate objective is to combine Clariant’s and REG’s processes into cellulosic biomass-to-biodiesel technology.

“Over the past three years, our work with REG has led to important advances in genetically improving REG’s proprietary microbes for beneficial use in facilitating the conversion of cellulosic sugars into biodiesel,” said ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, VP research and development, Vijay Swarup.

“Applying Clariant’s expertise and knowledge will help us better understand and advance a key stage in the overall cellulosic conversion process and hopefully lead to the development of scalable biodiesel technology.”

Clariant offers integrated technologies and solutions for converting agricultural residues such as wheat straw, rice straw, corn stover and sugar cane bagasse. Clariant’s sunliquid process features chemical-free pre-treatment, the integrated production of feedstock and process-specific enzymes and thus high yields of fermentable C5 and C6 sugars.

Clariant will conduct trials at its pre-commercial plant in Straubing, Germany using different types of cellulosic feedstock, which will be converted into sugars for conversion by REG and ExxonMobil into low-carbon biodiesel.

The partners will also work on a conceptual engineering study to validate the feasibility of the integrated process comprising the technologies of all parties.

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