Team:British Columbia/Project


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British Columbia -

Overall Project

Aromatic organosulfur compounds in heavy oils or bitumen resources, such as the Alberta oil sands, are toxic and difficult to remove during the refining process. While industrial scale methods for the removal of inorganic sulfur compounds have been developed, existing methods of hydrodesulfurization do not efficiently remove organosulfur compounds. Recent advances in biocatalytic desulfurization promise to improve the refining process by reducing energy requirements, carbon emissions and waste streams. However, existing methods of biocatalytic desulfurization using single engineered isolates in bioreactors have yet to become industrially scalable.

Here, we propose that communities of microorganisms expressing a distributed pathway for desulfurization will perform better than single strains in culture when treating complex mixtures of organosulfur compounds present in heavy oils or bitumen. To this end, we will engineer consortia capable of desulfurization using synthetic biology and environmental genomic approaches. We have chosen to distribute the 4S desulfurization pathway, due to its retention of the carbon skeleton and consequent preservation of the fuel’s energy density, among the members of the microbial community.

Project Details