How We Fit a Chemical Processing Plant Inside a Microbe

I’m here at IHS CERAWeek 2013, where OPXBIO is honored to be recognized and present as an Energy Innovation Pioneer among companies who are “developing technologies and business plans that are transforming the energy future. For us, that means working to change how energy is used in chemical production by taking a long-standing, physical chemical production process and turning it into a biological process. Let me explain what this means and why we’re doing it.

First, let’s look at how chemicals are typically produced today. Today, everything happens in big refineries filled with pipes, valves, gauges, tanks, heat and water that turn a raw material—petroleum—into other chemicals—like acrylic acid. The resulting acrylic acid produced at that factory is then sold to manufacturers to make a range of products including paints, laundry detergent and diapers.

This physical and mechanical process of turning a raw material into acrylic acid has been around a long time. It has been optimized and people in the industry are comfortable with it. However, I’m afraid this process is unsustainable and will soon become economically obsolete.

Petroleum costs are volatile and consistently rising. Factories are facing more regulation regarding emissions and the impact their facilities themselves on the environment. Many people buying the paint, laundry detergent and diapers want affordable products that have been produced sustainably and with minimal impact on the environment.

This is where OPXBIO’s biological process comes in.

We can take a lot of what happens within the physical chemical production process and put it inside a microscopic biological system. In our case, we use microbes. We are using the microbe’s biological system to make the designated chemical from a raw material. Rather than having engineers inside a factory do that work, we can adjust the microbe as needed to produce whatever chemical it is we need it to produce. We’re proving it’s economical, sustainable and scalable. In short, it works.

We have a lot of great resources on our website and blog that further explain how we have developed our biological approach to chemical processing. If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about what we are doing, please leave a comment below or send me an e-mail. We believe strongly that it makes good economical and sustainable sense to use a biological processing approach for what was previously seen as only achievable through physical processing technology.

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