Since 2009, ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics, Inc. (SGI) have been working together to turn algae into low-emission transportation fuel. The collaboration has fostered significant breakthroughs, including most recently the deployment of algae strains at SGI’s California Advanced Algal Facility (CAAF).

This outdoor field study, along with continued work in our labs and greenhouse, is helping scientists understand how to scale algae biofuels for potential commercial deployment. The hope is that this unexpected energy source will fuel the world’s trucks, planes and other large transportation vessels.  

By 2025, Exxoin Mobil teams plan to reach the technical ability to produce 10,000 barrels of algae biofuel per day. This will signal a key engineering milestone for large-scale production of algae biofuel.

Timeline of milestones:

2009 - Synthetic Genomics, Inc. (SGI) and ExxonMobil launch their partnership to convert algae into biofuels.

2010 - SGI opens a greenhouse at its La Jolla, California campus to grow algae in larger reactors and small ponds.

2012 - SGI and ExxonMobil recalibrate their research program by focusing on the basic science of algae, including the challenge of increasing the efficiency of photosynthesis, which algae use to produce energy-rich lipids.

2015 - As part of its photosynthesis research ExxonMobil establishes partnerships with the Colorado School of Mines and Michigan State University

2017 - The development of an algae strain that converts carbon into a record amount of energy-rich fat is a major breakthrough for SGI and ExxonMobil. This work is published in Nature Biotechnology.

2018 - SGI and ExxonMobil begin the next phase of their research by farming wild algae in outdoor ponds. The goal is to reach the technical ability to produce 10,000 barrels of algae biofuel per day by 2025