The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies has awarded a grant to Minnetonka, Minn.-based NatureWorks LLC. Worth up to $2.5 million, the grant will be used to support an ongoing joint development program between NatureWorks and Calysta that aims to sequester and utilize the problematic greenhouse gas methane as feedstock for NatureWorks’ Ingeo™ biopolymer and its intermediates. The collaboration is researching how to transform renewable biomethane into lactic acid — the building block for Ingeo — through a fermentation process, leveraging Calysta’s Biological Gas-to-Chemicals® platform for biological conversion of methane to high-value chemicals.
Calysta has already demonstrated lab-scale production of lactic acid from methane, and the companies are hoping to reach pilot-scale production in the next three to five years.
“If proven through this collaboration, methane to lactic acid conversion technology could be revolutionary, providing sustainable alternative feedstocks for Ingeo,” said Ken Williams, NatureWorks, and program leader for the Calysta-NatureWorks collaboration. “When coupled with NatureWorks’ proven commercial process for lactic acid to Ingeo, the methane to lactic acid process would transform a harmful greenhouse gas into useful and in-demand consumer and industrial products. This disruptive platform could support high-value chemicals and liquid fuels.”