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Intrexon opens California GTL pilot plant

The south San Francisco plant will produce isobutanol, a drop-in fuel with numerous advantages over other clean-burning gasoline blendstocks.

Intrexon Corp.’s pilot plant for its proprietary gas-to-liquids (GTL) bioconversion platform is now operational.

The company’s methanotroph bioconversion platform is designed to generate high-value products from natural gas, the most inexpensive carbon source that can be used for industrial fermentation. 

Intrexon’s initial target is isobutanol, a gasoline blendstock with several advantages over other biofuels, including cleaner burning combustion, less corrosion, greater energy content and compatibility with existing pipelines.

Over the past two years, the company has continuously improved the output of isobutanol from its engineered microbes, including a greater than 50% increase since November 2015. This significant progress moves it closer toward achieving the yield necessary to begin site selection for its first commercial plant, which is expected to happen in 2016. 

Intrexon Energy Partners said it remains on target for the potential commercialization of its biofuel in 2018.

Through its yield potential vs. other microbes and the utilization of low-cost natural gas feedstock, Intrexon's fermentation process has the potential to drive industry-leading margins for the fuels and chemicals it produces. In addition to isobutanol, the company said it has identified a number of valuable products that can be generated from methane using this approach.

During the 4Q 2015, Intrexon Energy Partners II, a JV with a select group of external investors, was formed to employ the company's platform to produce 1,4-Butanediol (BDO), a key chemical intermediate used to manufacture spandex, polyurethane, plastics and polyester. 

Production of BDO within methanotrophs follows similar metabolic pathways to isobutanol, enabling translation of the company's genetic technologies to achieve commercial-scale production of the chemical.

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