Joule announces EPA clearance for modified cyanobacteria

By Joule Unlimited Inc. | July 02, 2014

Joule Unlimited Inc. has announced that the U.S. EPA favorably reviewed its microbial commercial activity notice (MCAN) for Joule’s first commercial ethanol-producing catalyst. This clears the catalyst for commercial use at the company’s demonstration plant in Hobbs, New Mexico. Notably, this also marks the first time that EPA has allowed the commercial use of a modified cyanobacterium.

MCAN filings are required by the EPA prior to commercial use of certain modified microbes, including for biofuel or bio-based chemical production. In its review of Joule’s MCAN, EPA had no health or safety objections to use of the modified strain at the Hobbs facility. Joule and EPA have entered into a voluntary consent order which allows Joule to use this catalyst strain commercially at the Hobbs facility, while also providing EPA with further data resulting from such use.

“The favorable review of our first MCAN is an important step,” said Paul Snaith, president and CEO of Joule. “This work will help us not only meet or better EPA regulations beyond our plant in Hobbs, but also outside the US as we industrialize our solar, CO2-to-fuels platform.”

Joule has developed a portfolio of catalysts that are engineered to continuously consume and convert industrial waste COemissions directly to transportation fuels. The catalysts are derived from an environmentally benign cyanobacterium that exists naturally in the wild, and Joule has redirected the metabolism of multiple strains for the production of specific products, including ethanol and diesel-range alkanes – an industry first. This feat enables the continuous, single-step conversion of COto fuels, negating the need for biomass feedstocks and complex downstream processing.