BP looks to US for research partners

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BP has selected the University of California Berkeley and its partners the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to join in a $500m research program.

The program will explore how bioscience can be used to increase energy production and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment.

The Energy Biosciences Institute will perform research aimed at the production of new and cleaner energy, initially focusing on renewable biofuels for road transport. The EBI will also pursue bioscience-based research in three other key areas; the conversion of heavy hydrocarbons to clean fuels, improved recovery from existing oil and gas reservoirs, and carbon sequestration.

'The proposal from UC Berkeley and its partners was selected in large part because these institutions have excellent track records of delivering "Big Science" – large and complex developments predicated on both scientific breakthroughs and engineering applications that can be deployed in the real world,' said BP Group Chief Executive John Browne. 'This program will further both basic and applied biological research relevant to energy. In short, it will create the discipline of Energy Biosciences.'

Dedicated facilities on the campuses of UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois will house EBI research laboratories and staff. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will carry out supporting research. Up to 50 BP staff located on the two campuses will work in partnership with university faculty and researchers. BP and its partners will share governance of the EBI and guidance of its research programs.

’While it is disappointing that the UK was not chosen to lead this major new initiative, the proposed partnership has excellent credentials and will be able to support the rapidly growing bioethanol industry in the Americas,’ commented Professor Tony Bridgwater, Leader, Bioenergy Research Group, Aston University.