Collaborators: David A. C. Beck (eScience & Chemical Engineering), Mary Lidstrom (Chemical Engineering, Microbiology)
Natural gas, predominately methane, is a domestic fossil resource that can be found in significantly large quantities. Yet, a portion of the nation’s natural gas reserves are in remote regions that do not support costly infrastructure investment in order to bring this resource to market. Biologically based technologies capable of converting methane to liquid fuels may be advantageous over current state-of-the-art technologies, which typically rely on large-scale, capital-intensive projects. Developing small-scale bio-based methane-to-liquid reactors that could be deployed in remote locations would make methane resources economically viable and provide additional energy and economic security to the nation.
UW is developing technologies for microbes to convert methane found in natural gas into liquid diesel fuel. Specifically the project seeks to significantly increase the amount of lipids produced by the microbe, and to develop novel catalytic technology to directly convert these lipids to liquid fuel. These engineered microbes could enable small-scale methane-to-liquid conversion at lower cost than conventional methods. Small-scale, microbe-based conversion would leverage abundant, domestic natural gas resources and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.