At SHV Energy, we are committed to continually lowering the carbon footprint of our gas products. Globally, we have a portfolio of research and development projects. One area we are particularly focused on is developing novel, bio-based conversion processes for the production of bioLPG and other biogases from renewable sources of feedstock. In Northern Ireland, for example, we have been collaborating with Ulster University for the past two years on a project to produce biogenic propane.
“We initiated a collaboration with Ulster University in 2017,” explains Mary Coughlin, Strategic Business Development Manager at Calor Ireland. “Ulster University has an excellent reputation in biotechnical research with world-class facilities, renowned staff and several published papers in relevant areas. Through teaming up with Ulster University, SHV Energy and Calor Ireland have a unique collaboration that helps us drive this potential research agenda forward quickly.”
"New solutions using indigenous feedstock are an essential part of the energy transition. We are expanding our own knowledge in this field – but collaboration with experts helps us go much faster"
“The project focuses on investigating how bacteria could produce renewable propane via a process similar to fermentation”. Dr Felicity Currie, who is performing this research at Ulster University, explains how they set to work. “Our first priority was to get hold of suitable environmental samples from known locations where hydrocarbons naturally occur – we call these the ‘baring strata’. We were able to gather a wide range of samples so that we could investigate if there were bacteria capable of the production of propane from organic nutrients. This is precise, detailed work requiring clean labs and a steady hand!”
The next step
Future stages will involve culturing microorganisms involved in propane production, followed by synthetically enhancing the propane production pathways. Encouraging early results indicate that we are on the right path to discovering microbial populations capable of propane biosynthesis.
“We learn so much from collaborating with researchers and top-class universities all around the world,” adds Rebecca Groen, Director of Biofuels at SHV Energy. “New solutions using widely available indigenous feedstocks are an essential part of the energy transition. We are gradually expanding our own knowledge in this field – but collaboration with academic experts helps us go much faster.”
Such is the promise of this line of research that additional funding is now being provided by the Economic Development Agency Invest Northern Ireland, who are seeking solutions to decarbonise the 68% of properties in the country that aren’t connected to the natural-gas grid.