Amyris’ technology platform modifies microorganisms to leverage an isoprenoid
biosynthetic pathway to produce a large variety of product molecules from sugar. Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge.

Amyris, Inc. has entered into an off-take agreement with Shell for the supply of Amyris No Compromise diesel. The parties have agreed to the terms under which Shell may purchase the renewable hydrocarbon fuel from Amyris, including pricing relative to a defined biodiesel price index. The companies intend to cooperate to obtain the necessary European approvals for use of this fuel.

Amyris applies industrial synthetic biology to genetically modify microorganisms to serve to produce a broad range of products, including farnesene. Farnesene is an isoprenoid molecule that, when used as a fuel precursor, can be hydrogenated to farnesane, which has a high cetane number (58) (Peralta-Yahya and Keasling, 2010). Amyris modifies farnesene to become Amyris diesel.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has officially registered Amyris’ renewable diesel fuel at a 20% blend rate, the first time a hydrocarbon-based fuel made from plant-derived resources has been registered for commercial sale. (Earlier post.) Third-party testing indicates that this fuel, which is blended with petroleum diesel, overcomes a number of the challenges facing current biofuels:

  • Unlike biodiesel and ethanol, Amyris renewable diesel is a hydrocarbon enabling it to blend with petroleum diesel at much higher levels than typical biofuels without causing performance issues.

  • Amyris renewable diesel works well at extremely low temperatures without having to alter engines and can be easily distributed within the existing fuels infrastructure.

  • Amyris renewable diesel fully complies with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D-975 Table 1 specifications for petroleum diesel fuels.

  • Amyris renewable diesel contains zero sulfur and virtually no harmful aromatics, and when blended with petroleum diesel it results in significantly less particulate matter, NOx, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions than petroleum fuels.

Earlier this week, oil and gas major Total entered into a strategic partnership with Amyris, resulting in Total’s taking a 17% stake in the company and a wide-spectrum master development and collaboration agreement. (Earlier post.)

Amyris is a synthetic biology that designs microorganisms to produce defined molecules from sugar for use as renewable chemicals and transportation fuels. Amyris Brasil S.A., a subsidiary of Amyris, oversees the establishment and expansion of Amyris’s production in Brazil, including SMA Indústria Química S.A., its joint venture with Usina São Martinho, one of the largest sugar and ethanol producers in Brazil. In addition, Amyris is building fuels distribution capabilities in the United States through its subsidiary, Amyris Fuels LLC.


  • Pamela P. Peralta-Yahya and Jay D. Keasling (2010) Advanced biofuel production in microbes. Biotechnol. J. 5, 147–162 doi: 10.1002/biot.200900220