On July 14, Irving-based ExxonMobil Corp. announced an alliance with leading biotech company, Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI), to research and develop the next generation of biofuels from photosynthetic algae. “This investment comes after several years of planning and study and is an important addition to ExxonMobil’s ongoing efforts to advance breakthrough technologies to help meet the world’s energy challenges,” said Dr. Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development. “Meeting the world’s growing energy demands will require a multitude of technologies and energy sources. We believe that biofuel produced by algae could be a meaningful part of the solution in the future if our efforts result in an economically viable, low net carbon emission transportation fuel.” ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company has entered into a research and development alliance with SGI, a privately held company focused on developing genomic-driven solutions and founded by genome pioneer Craig Nemter to develop advanced biofuels from photosynthetic algae that are compatible with gasoline and diesel fuels. Under the program, if research and development milestones are successfully met, ExxonMobil expects to spend more than $600 million, which includes $300 million in internal costs and potentially more than $300 million to SGI. “While significant work and years of research and development still must be completed, if successful, algae-based fuels could help meet the world’s growing demand for transportation fuel while reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Michael Dolan, senior vice president. ExxonMobil has invested more than $1.5 billion over the past five years on activities that improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Initiatives include technologies to improve automobile efficiency, such as tire liners that keep tires inflated longer, advanced fuel-economy engine oil and light-weight automobile plastics. The company is researching enhanced engine efficiency, has developed an improved lithium battery separator film for hybrid electric cars and sponsors breakthrough research into ways to improve solar energy, biofuels and carbon capture and storage. “The real challenge to creating a viable next generation biofuel is the ability to produce it in large volumes which will require significant advances in both science and engineering,” said Venter, chief executive of SGI. "The alliance between SGI and ExxonMobil will bring together the complementary capabilities and expertise of both companies to develop innovative solutions that could lead to the large scale production of biofuel from algae.” Among other advantages, readily available sunlight and carbon dioxide used to grow the photosynthetic algae could provide greenhouse gas mitigation benefits. Growing algae does not rely on fresh water and arable land otherwise used for food production. It can br grown in brackish water and in ponds next to power generation facilities to provide fuel and to mitigate power-plant emissions production. Algae have the potential to produce large volumes of oils that can be processed in existing refineries to manufacture fuels that are compatible with existing transportation technology and infrastructure, according to SGI. ExxonMobil is the largest publicly traded international oil and gas company. SGIis a privately held company focused on developing and commercializing genomic-driven energy production, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.