Researchers have made a significant breakthrough in the development of synthetic pathways that will enable renewable biosynthesis of the gas propane. 

Natural metabolic pathways for the renewable biosynthesis of propane do not exist but scientists at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB), Imperial College and University of Turku have developed an alternative microbial biosynthetic pathway to produce renewable propane.

The team led by Prof. Nigel Scrutton of the University of Manchester and Dr. Patrik Jones from Imperial College, modified existing fermentative butanol pathways using an engineered enzyme variant to redirect the microbial pathway to produce propane as opposed to butanol. The team was able to achieve propane biosynthesis creating a platform for next-generation microbial propane production. 

Propane has very good physicochemical properties which allow it to be stored and transported in a compressed liquid form. While under ambient conditions it is a clean-burning gas, with existing global markets and infrastructure for storage, distribution and utilization in a wide range of applications ranging from heating to transport fuel.

Consequently, propane is an attractive target product in research aimed at developing new renewable alternatives to complement currently used petroleum-derived fuels.

Credit: The University of Manchester

Professor Nigel Scrutton, Director of the MIB, says, "This study focused on the construction and evaluation of alternative microbial biosynthetic pathways for the production of renewable propane. It also expands the metabolic toolbox for renewable propane production, providing new insight and understanding of the development of next-generation biofuels which one day could lead to commercial production."