In a paper published today in Science (Science, 329, 559; 2010 doi:10.1126/science.1187936), scientist from Biofuels startup LS9 announced the identification of genes from Cyanobacteria which are involved in biosynthesis pathway that leads to the production of Alkanes, the major constituents of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
For a long time it was known that Alkanes, the major constituents of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel are naturally produced by diverse species; however, the genetics and biochemistry behind this biology have remained elusive. The Ls9 scientists pinpointed the exact mechanism and the genes involved in this pathway. They identified that the pathway consits of an acyl–acyl carrier protein reductase and an aldehyde decarbonylase, which together convert intermediates of fatty acid metabolism to alkanes and alkenes.
After this they expressed theses genes in E.coli and found out that a mixture of alkanes and alkenes are secreted. These genes and enzymes can be now used for direct, one-step conversion of feedstock to fuel.
Though the company claim the cost of their Biodiseal around $100 which is a bit higher than crude ($75), they are hoping to cut down the cost to $50 by 2012.
But there are still doubts as to whether they can use the processes to scale up the production of Biofuel cheaply enough to complete with oil.
Only time will tell the answer.