Developing the most promising biomass conversion pathways

Collaborateur dans le laboratoire de recherche d’Amyris à Emeryville, en Californie (États-Unis). Collaborateur dans le laboratoire de recherche d’Amyris à Emeryville, en Californie (États-Unis).

At Total, our research efforts currently focus on three biomass conversion pathways: Fermentation, thermochemical conversion and microalgae. To develop these pathways, we rely on many strategic partnerships with startups and international research labs.

We innovate to prepare the future of bioenergies

Bioenergies research draws on a wide spectrum of technical and scientific expertise, including biology, genetics, chemistry and agronomy. For this reason, we have adopted a research strategy based on open innovation. By forming international partnerships with academic and private laboratories, or acquiring equity interests in innovative startups, we are able to pool our efforts, data and results with our partners. Our goal is to identify the most effective biomass conversion pathways and to develop a full range of products for the transportation and chemical sectors. 


Generating energy from sugar through the fermentation pathway

Microorganisms (yeasts and bacteria) ferment the sugars produced from biomass to convert them into molecules that can be used to manufacture fuels and chemicals. We strive to optimize these microorganisms in order to obtain efficient and robust strains for use on an industrial scale. To this end, we have formed partnerships with leading universities and acquired equity interests in promising companies and startups across Europe and the United States. This approach is exemplified by our flagship partnership with Amyris. This cutting-edge synthetic biology platform is capable of genetically modifying microorganisms in order to produce a diverse set of molecules, including farnesene, which can be used to manufacture a broad range of products, such as cosmetics, chemicals and biofuels. 

In addition to this major partnership, we are working on developing fermentation technology with both academic and private partners (Joint BioEnergy Institute, Futurol, Toulouse White Biotechnology), while also acquiring equity interests in promising startups such as Novogy, Gevo and Renmatix through a joint development agreement.

Amyris: a cutting-edge biotechnology platform

Our U.S.-based partner’s advanced synthetic biology platform can engineer and screen microorganisms capable of converting sugar into various molecules of interest. These molecules include farnesene, an essential molecule in the composition of many different cosmetic and chemical products. This company’s research could also offer applications in the fields of biodiesel and bio-jet fuel.

Converting biomass through the Thermochemical Cellulosic pathway

Thermochemical conversion is used to produce a wide range of molecules utilized in chemicals and fuels. In pursuing this pathway, we leverage our expertise with proven refining and petrochemical processes and make the most of our research programs and partnerships. Our ongoing projects aim to make this pathway more economically viable and reliable, in order to pave the way for its future on an industrial scale.

  • Our flagship thermochemical conversion project is BioTfueL, a partnership dedicated to developing technologies for producing biodiesel and bio-jet fuel from lignocellulosic biomass.
    We are also pursuing this pathway by investing development capital in Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc.
  • Atol TM technology aims to convert bioethanol into bioethylene through dehydration, making it possible to produce polymers from renewable sources.


From microalgae to biofuel, the phototrophic pathway

Microalgae can create molecules, notably through photosynthesis. These molecules are used in the manufacture of fuels and lubricants. Produced on non-arable land to avoid interfering with food crops, microalgae could potentially offer a much higher yield than the plants currently used to produce biodiesel. We are working to harness the advantages through several research projects undertaken with our partners to assess the long-term feasibility of these technologies. For instance, with AlgaePARC we plan to design and industrialize a reactor model and a cultivation process offering higher technical, economic and energy efficiency performance than conventional technologies. We are also researching this area with organizations like the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology in China.

Focus on microalgae
Focus on microalgae
Focus on microalgae

Busy microalgae factories, use photosynthesis to produce lipids, which can then be converted into fuels or lubricants.