MICROBIAL PRODUCTION OF OIL

Can existing raw materials, originating from petroleum, be replaced by so-called Biobased raw materials? Climate change and decline of global energy supplies lead to research aiming to alleviate these issues. Microorganisms, such as yeasts, are a promising source of oil.

Triacylglycerol (TAG)

Some yeasts can accumulate 20-60% of their dry cell weight in oil under nutrient-limiting conditions. This oil, triacylglycerol (TAG), resembles the composition of vegetable oils such as olive, soya bean, palm, and sunflower oils. An additional advantage is that these yeasts can grow on vegetable waste streams, such as carbon sources. Therefore, Biobased oil can be produced without putting pressure on the food chain.

HAN BioCentre has some unique oil-producing yeast strains that can produce significant amounts of oil. This oil can serve as bio-based raw material for applications in non-food substances such as paints, varnish, asphalt, flooring, cosmetics and bioplastics.
 

Metabolic engineering

Each application requires a unique optimal fatty acid composition of the oil. It is therefore necessary to be able to adjust the TAG composition accordingly; this can be done through metabolic engineering. To make the process with yeast economically viable there is further research needed to improve productivity and increase efficiency. This can be done for example, by:

  • Increasing the oil levels in the cell
  • Increasing productivity
  • Increasing purity of the extracted oil
     

In collaboration with Wageningen University and business partners, the HAN BioCentre runs a research project that aims to make bio-refining an economic profitable process in which not only the oil is used, but also the remaining cell material of yeasts.