Researchers Harness E. coli for Propane Production

David Lawrence possesses more than three decades of experience in the energy, oil and gas industries, having held numerous executive leadership positions at Shell. After retiring from Shell in his roles as executive vice president of exploration and commercial for Shell Upstream Americas and head of Global exploration, David Lawrence drew on his substantial experience to form Lawrence Energy Group, LLC. David Lawrence and his team seek emerging plays and opportunities with unique technology advantage or technical insights positions in the current energy market, focusing on the oil, gas, and renewable energy sectors.

Research is ongoing across many fields of energy. For example, a breakthrough by researchers from Imperial College London and Finland’s University of Turku poses significant implications for renewable energy. By altering the cellular processes of E. coli, a typical gut bacteria found in both humans and animals, the researchers succeeded in biologically producing propane.

The process involved disrupting the biological system responsible for converting fatty acids into cell membranes. The team used its own recently discovered variant of an enzyme known as thioesterase to pause the process early on and remove butyric acid, a critical element of propane production. The researchers then introduced the bacterial enzyme CAR to convert the butyric acid into butyraldehyde before using aldehyde-deformylating oxygenas (ADO), another newly discovered enzyme, to create propane.

The research team hopes to eventually integrate their system into photosynthetic bacteria. By achieving this goal, they hope to facilitate the direct conversion of solar energy into chemical fuel.


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