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Oxy Low Carbon Ventures to develop pilot plant for innovative CO2-to-bio-ethylene technology

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, a subsidiary of Occidental and bio-engineering startup Cemvita Factory announced a plan to construct and operate a one metric ton per month bio-ethylene pilot plant, applying a jointly developed technology using human-made carbon dioxide (CO2) instead of hydrocarbon-sourced feedstocks.

The pilot project will scale up the process that was successful in laboratory tests, which showed the OLCV-Cemvita technology is competitive with hydrocarbon-sourced ethylene processes. Ethylene is widely used in the chemical industry, primarily as a precursor to polymers for use in items like durable, long-life products. Start-up of the pilot plant is expected in 2022.

“This technology could provide an opportunity to offer a new, non-hydrocarbon-sourced ethylene product to the market, reducing carbon emissions, and in the future benefit our affiliate, OxyChem, which is a large producer and consumer of ethylene in its chlorovinyls business,” said Dr. Robert Zeller, Vice President of Technology for OLCV. 

“Today bio-ethylene is made from bio-ethanol, which is made from sugarcane, which in turn was created by photosynthesizing CO2. Our bio-synthetic process simply requires CO2, water and light to produce bio-ethylene, and that’s why it saves a lot of cost and carbon emissions,” stated Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita Factory. “This project is a great example of how Cemvita is applying industrial-strength synthetic biology to help our clients lower their carbon footprint while creating new revenue streams.”

“Nature provided the inspiration,” noted Dr. Tara Karimi, co-founder and CTO of Cemvita Factory. “We took a gene from a banana and genetically engineered it into our CO2-utilizing host microorganism. We are now significantly increasing its productivity with the goal to achieve commercial metrics that we have defined alongside OLCV.”

In 2019, OLCV made an investment in Cemvita Factory to jointly explore how the advances in synthetic biology can be utilized to provide sustainable pathways for the bio-manufacturing of OxyChem’s products. This strategic partnership is yielding new innovations that hold promise to decarbonize and transform the chemical industry to create a sustainable future.

Source: Oxy Low Carbon Ventures

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