Repsol S.A. is a global multi-energy provider headquartered in Madrid that is engaged in worldwide upstream and downstream activities with the ambition to drive the evolution towards a low-emissions energy model. Repsol is leading the energy transition with its ambition of achieving zero net emissions by 2050, by deploying an integrated model of decarbonization technologies based on enhanced efficiency, increased renewable power generation capacity, production of low-carbon fuels, development of new customer solutions, the circular economy, and by driving breakthrough projects to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.
The company employs more than 24,000 employees worldwide and distributes its products in nearly 100 countries to around 24 million customers.
Repsol launched the challenge “Bio-indole for gasoline octane booster”. The company was aiming to reduce CO₂ emissions by increasing the octane number of gasoline to RON > 100.
The company wanted to find a partner to develop a new family of more efficient Bio-additives alternatives to Bio-ethers and EV Biotech became their best solution provider.
EV Biotech is a strain development company. Founded in 2018 by Linda Dijkshoorn, Sergey Lunev and Agnieszka Wegrzyn, EV Biotech is set to transform strain development utilising predictive computational algorithms to optimise the process.
Given the specific expertise in industrial biotechnology, EV Biotech was the SME selected to solve the corporate challenge “Bio-indole for gasoline octane booster” launched by Repsol.
By digitalizing microorganisms, EV Biotech is able to accelerate strain engineering for the efficient and sustainable production of chemicals. The combination of in-house expertise with synergistic use of computational modeling together with strain engineering facilitates the development of new chemicals by fermentation significantly reducing time.
That said, the collaboration between Repsol and EV Biotech focused on the development of a new family of more efficient Bio-additives alternatives to Bio-ethers, which are currently the preferred choice of the O&G industry to raise the fuel octane number.
A technical and economic feasibility study was carried out and prepared based on the reactor scale and type of fermentation along with an overview of the Industrial bioprocess simulation. This study had the scope of identifying risks and opportunities for the improvement of the industrial bioprocess for the production of bio-additives and for reducing the price of the final product.
The analysis included a breakdown of annual operation costs, strain engineering and equipment-related. A method was developed to identify the patent related to the production of indole and its precursors. The output obtained was used to prepare the landscape based on a patent application, patent application in different technical fields, and assignee of the patents. Finally, an overview of the claims concerning strain engineering for tryptophan metabolism was presented and based on this overview EV Biotech’s freedom to operate was identified.
The project started in August 2021 and ended in November 2021. PITCCH supported the first phase with the intention to facilitate the initiation of longer-lasting Open Innovation collaborations and stimulate the adoption of this approach by companies.
The results of EV Biotech’s feasibility study showed that producing the chemical of interest by fermentation, could not reach the requested market price. By doing a feasibility study before starting the strain development, EV Biotech prevents any R&D costs spend on non-feasible products.
Repsol’s conclusion was that the final production cost was too distant from the established target and the strategies presented to decrease the cost were not sufficiently substantiated to proceed to the following phase at a reasonable risk. So, Repsol decided to put this activity on hold and not continue, at this moment, with further development.
The final meeting pointed out the positive evaluation of the collaboration. Repsol appreciated the way of working and the expertise of EV Biotech, willing to consider them for future collaborations in the same or similar domains. EV Biotech was as well satisfied with this new collaboration and the PITCCH support. Being a scale-up, in fact, they considered the PITCCH program crucial for entering into contact and starting a collaboration with BC. As a result, they are listed in the portfolio of collaborators and partners of Repsol.