Amyris: A cutting-edge biotechnology platform

Location: Emeryville, California, United States (research labs) and Brotas, Brazil (production plant)
Technology: Transforming sugar into molecules of interest
Potential applications for Total: Fuels and specialty chemicals

June 2014
Our 10% farnesane kerosene is authorized on airlines
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Employee at the Amyris research laboratory, Emeryville, California, United States Collaborateur dans le laboratoire de recherche de la société Amyris, Emeryville, Californie, États-Unis

In 2010, Total acquired an interest in Amyris, a California-based company specializing in biotechnologies. Amyris’s expertise lies in selecting and optimizing microorganisms, such as yeasts, in order to transform sugar into various molecules of interest for fuels and specialty chemicals.

From farnesene to farnesane

Produced from microorganisms, farnesene is Amyris’s flagship molecule. It offers a broad range of applications, from cosmetics to biofuels. Once hydrogenated, the farnesene molecule becomes farnesane, which can be mixed directly into diesel or jet fuels without requiring any engine modifications.

Advantages include enhanced resistance to cold and the ability to be incorporated into conventional diesel or jet fuel in larger proportions.

The Amyris expertise
Screening and engineering a yeast strain using synthetic biology
Screening and engineering a yeast strain using synthetic biology

Researchers seek to obtain a stable microorganism (such as a yeast strain or bacteria) that can produce the molecule of interest. To do that, they must fully identify the cellular metabolic pathways to be able to reprogram the microorganism, to optimize production of the target molecule, as illustrated in the diagram above.

The Bio-Process Platform (BPP)

Total’s Bio Process Platform (BPP) in Emeryville, California, develops biomass fermentation processes for the Group. Thanks to its 20 to 1,000-liter fermenters, companies such as Novogy and Amyris can test their processes on a larger scale.