In California, Intrexon Energy Partners and Dominion Energy said they are exploring the potential for commercial-scale biological conversion of natural gas to isobutanol, using Intrexon’s proprietary methanotroph bioconversion platform, which can convert natural gas into higher carbon compounds such as isobutanol and farnesene under ambient temperatures and pressures.
Background on the announcement: The shale basins in the Eastern US — of which the Marcellus and the Utuica are among the best known, have been under some devlopment pressure in recent years because of the low prices for natural gas and the “dryer gas” nature of the basins — a high percentage of methane, compared to ethane and propane. Basins like the Bakken formation in North Dakota have featured “wetter gas” and more oil molecules.
Under the terms of the agreement, IEP will be required to meet specific development milestones prior to initiation of certain commercialization activities, which are subject to board approval by both parties. Dominion will be the exclusive partner to construct, own, operate, and maintain the production facilities in the Marcellus and Utica Shale Basins located in eastern North America via potential long-term services agreements with IEP. Within this geographic region, the collaboration plans to build natural gas bioconversion facilities leading to the creation of job opportunities and generation of local and state tax revenue.
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Reaction from stakeholders
“We are excited to partner with IEP and help realize the promise of their GTL platform to harness a plentiful feedstock in natural gas for the bio-production of isobutanol. Dominion is committed to being a good environmental steward while providing reliable, affordable energy services for our customers,” said Diane Leopold, President of Dominion Energy.
“Dominion’s operational leadership in natural gas processing and transport along with their extensive geographic footprint makes them an ideal partner to scale-up and commercialize IEP’s bioconversion platform,” commented Robert F. Walsh, Senior Vice President and Head of Intrexon’s Energy Sector. “We believe our innovative biological solution for converting low cost natural gas into higher valued fuels, lubricants and chemicals will transform the gas to liquids field.”