Bioconversion of Single-­Carbon Effluents into Biofuels and Biofuel Precursors

Biomass is a complex class of material with great potential as feedstock for the production of a wide variety of compounds, including biofuels. Its complexity, based on the variety and composition of the materials making up biomass depending on origin or source, means that a large variety of approaches must be used, ideally in an integrated manner, to fully realize this potential.


Methane and methanol are common by-products of many industrial sectors, including energy, agriculture and forestry. In fact, they are often found in waste effluents of many biomass conversion processes, be it from chemical (e.g. methanol from pulping), biological (e.g. methane from anaerobic digestion) or thermal (e.g. methane from pyrolysis) processing.


Rather than be disposed of as waste or used in marginally economically viable strategies, these single-carbon compounds (C1) can be used as low-cost feedstocks for the production of valuable bioproducts, such as biofuels and biofuel precursors, through bioconversion by methylotrophic bacteria – bacteria that can use C1 compounds as sole carbon source. This approach can be advantageous on many fronts.


- Most importantly methylotrophs convert methane and methanol to higher value products, such as designer fuel or isoprenoids for jet fuel. This, also considering that C1 compounds must often be disposed of at a cost, provides an economically viable alternative to by-product management.


- Because methylotrophic bacteria are generally robust and versatile, little or no pretreatment is required before sending C1 effluent streams for bioconversion, further improving the cost-effectiveness and economic prospects of the biofuels produced.


- Climate change creates a strong motivation to reduce industrial emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). Methane is a common low-value industrial by-product with a global warming potential 28-36 times greater than CO2 based on a 100-year period. It is sometimes recovered for energy production or simply flared, releasing CO2. Hence, the conversion of methane effluents to valuable products can greatly reduce GHG emissions and the carbon footprint of methane-emitting processes.


- Finally, the possibility of converting methane and methanol, rather than sugars, to biofuels means there is no impact on the food chain.


The aim of this project is to develop a platform technology for the bioconversion of C1 compounds resulting from forestry activities (fermentation, thermal processing, anaerobic digestion) into biofuels (alcohols, lipids) and biofuel precursors (e.g. isoprenoids). This platform will be integrated in the greater context of biomass conversion by, for example, using by-product streams from other bioconversion activities (e.g. anaerobic digestion and pyrolysis) as feedstock.


The collaboration between the Sauvageau (Engineering) and Stein (Science) labs will create a unique setting for the development and industrialization of methylotrophic bacteria. The main areas explored will be:



  • the identification of biofuels and biofuel precursors naturally produced by methylotrophic bacteria

  • the mapping of relevant metabolic pathways

  • the implementation of advanced bioprocessing strategies to methylotrophic cultures for improved productivity

  • the development and adaptation of a methanotrophic bacteria chassis for industrial applications

  • the production of high value biofuels and biofuel precursors from methylotrophic bacteria

  • the development of efficient cell lysis and product recovery strategies

  • scale up and integration with point source industrial emitters of methane


This project will impact the energetic, economic, environmental and social aspects of biomass as a source of energy. The platform technology develop will be implementable in a variety of sectors, from energy to forestry, agriculture to waste treatment.

A multi-level “-omics” approach to the study of the growth regulation of methanotrophs

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Melissa Harrison, Phillip Sun, Fabini Orata

Conference/Workshop

A multi-level “-omics” approach to the study of the growth regulation of methanotrophs. Future Energy Systems Research Symposium.

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Melissa Harrison, Phillip Sun, Fabini Orata

Conference/Workshop

Adaptive Evolution of Methylomicrobium album BG8 on a low pH medium

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Kieran McDonald

Conference/Workshop

Bacteriophages - Research Zone

Miranda Stahn

Event

Bioconversion of methane emissions into biofuels and biofuel precursors

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein

Conference/Workshop

Bioconversion of methane to biofuels and biopolymers. EngTALK

Dominic Sauvageau

Event

Bioconversion of single-carbon substrates in fed-batch cultures.

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Conference/Workshop

Biomat connect Industry-Academia Mixer

Event

Breaking the walls of climate change

Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Event

Cell lysis and enhanced product recovery from methanotrophic bacteria

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Miranda Stahn, Mark Lawley

Conference/Workshop

Cell lysis and enhanced product recovery from methanotrophic bacteria. Future Energy Systems Research Symposium.

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Miranda Stahn, Mark Lawley

Conference/Workshop

Development of a Methanotroph Chassis: Genetic engineering of Methylomicrobium album BG8 for production of isoprenoids from C1 compounds

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Shibashis Das

Conference/Workshop

Development of a methanotroph chassis: genetic engineering of Methylomicrobium album BG8 for production of value-added products.

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Marc Waddingham, Shibashis Das

Conference/Workshop

Development of a plasmid-based gene expression system for methanotrophs

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Shibashis Das

Conference/Workshop

Effect of copper on the growth of methanotrophic bacteria in a fed-batch process

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Conference/Workshop

Genes = Tools

Event

Genome Scale Metabolic Modelling of a Methanotroph for Sustainable Production of Biofuels and Bioplastics

Phillip Sun

Conference/Workshop

Genomic taxonomy of the gamma methanotrophs

Fabini Orata

Conference/Workshop

Genomic taxonomy of the gammaproteobacterial methanotrophs (Methylococcales) calls for the reclassification of members within this order

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Fabini Orata

Conference/Workshop

Identification and characterization of lysogenized phages in methanotrophic

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Miranda Stahn

Conference/Workshop

Identification and characterization of lysogenized phages in methanotrophic bacteria

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Miranda Stahn

Conference/Workshop

Impact of substrates on development of industrial processes for methylotrophs.

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein

Conference/Workshop

Introductory microbiology demonstration

Lisa Stein, Marc Waddingham, Phillip Sun, Shibashis Das, Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Event

Mapping a Microbial Factory: How Nutrients Affect Gene Expression in Methane-Utilizing Bacteria

Phillip Sun

Event

Metabolic mapping of Methylomicrobium album strain BG8

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Phillip Sun

Conference/Workshop

Methane transformation using bacteria: an innovative approach. 3-MT competition

Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Event

Optimization of bacterial growth and polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) yield by Methylocystis sp. Rockwell

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein

Conference/Workshop

Optimizing methanotroph bioproduction through growth strategies and strain adaptation

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Kieran McDonald, Phillip Sun, Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Conference/Workshop

Optimizing methanotroph biotechnology through growth strategies and strain adaptation.

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Kieran McDonald, Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Conference/Workshop

Peers in Research Communication (PIRC) Group

Misc

Presentation to UofA Senate Plenary Meeting

Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Event

Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through the bioconversion of methane from Albertan industrial sectors.

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein

Conference/Workshop

Substrate-dependent growth variability across model methanotrophic strains

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein

Conference/Workshop

Systematic Development of a Methanotroph chassis for the production of value-added products from C1 waste of Agriculture and Forestry: Predictive modeling and genetic engineering of Methylomicrobium album BG8

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Phillip Sun, Shibashis Das

Conference/Workshop

TWOSE Research Zone Science Communications Training Program

Event

The application of a switchable solvent to the extraction of polyhydroxybutyrate from methanotrophic bacteria.

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Mark Lawley

Conference/Workshop

The hunt for viruses that infect methane consuming bacteria

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Miranda Stahn

Conference/Workshop

Turning Greenhouse Gases into Green Products

Event

Turning green house gases into green products - 3MT competition

Event

University of Alberta 3 minute thesis (3MT) competition

Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Event

Windsor Park School Science Blitz

Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Event

1st place - 3MT presentation - Biological Sciences

Award

2nd place Best Poster - CSChE Conference 2017

Award

Alberta Graduate Student Scholarship

Mark Lawley

Award

Alberta Graduate Student Scholarship

Miranda Stahn

Award

Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship - NSERC CGS-M

Kieran McDonald

Award

Best oral presentation in session award

Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Award

Captain Thomas Farrell Greenhalgh Memorial Scholarships in Chemical Engineering

Kieran McDonald

Award

Certificate of Teaching Innovation (CTI) Award

Award

Dean's Research Award

David Boon

Award

Department of Biological Sciences Teaching Award

Phillip Sun

Award

Doctoral Recruitment Scholarship

Shibashis Das

Award

Doctoral Recruitment Scholarship

Phillip Sun

Award

EMBO Viruses of Microbes Accommodation Award

Miranda Stahn

Award

Education Abroad Award

Phillip Sun

Award

FGSR Graduate Student Teaching Award

Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Award

Graduate Student Association Teaching Award

Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Award

Graduate Student Scholarship

Kieran McDonald

Award

Graduate Student Teaching Award

Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Award

Leonard E. Gads Teaching Assistant Award

Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Award

Letter of Commendation for Excellence in Teaching

Award

NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA)

David Boon

Award

Paranchych Graduate Fund in Microbiology

Award

Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship – Doctoral level

Award

Teaching Assistant Award

Phillip Sun

Award

Undergraduate Research Initiative Researcher Stipend (URI)

David Boon

Award

Walter H. Johns Graduate Fellowship

Kieran McDonald

Award

Westmoreland Coal Company Graduate Scholarship in Environmental Engineering

Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari

Award

Combined effects of carbon and nitrogen source to optimize growth of proteobacterial methanotrophs
.

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein

Scholarly Refereed Journal

Complete genome sequence of Methylomonas denitrificans strain FJG1, an obligate aerobic methanotroph that can couple methane oxidation to denitrification

Lisa Stein, Fabini Orata

Scholarly Refereed Journal

FES Student Profile article

Misc: Online article

Phylogenomic analysis of the gammaproteobacterial methanotrophs (order Methylococcales) calls for the reclassification of members at the genus and species levels

Dominic Sauvageau, Lisa Stein, Fabini Orata

Scholarly Refereed Journal