070004: Method to Produce Biodiesel by Fermentation

Production of alternative fuels such as biodiesel is on the rise around the world and in the U.S, due to a strong and growing desire to reduce dependency on petroleum derived diesel fuel and its unstable pricing. The acceptance of biodiesel has been slowed due to its higher cost relative to petroleum-derived diesel. The higher cost of biodiesel is directly related to the cost of feedstock used for biodiesel production, which is often derived from crops also used for food. The displacement of food crops by energy crops causes higher food prices and is fueling a rapidly growing social, economical and political push to move away from food crops for alternative fuel production. Hence, biodiesel producers are seeking technologies that promise to lower feedstock costs, and that can utilize non-food source plant materials.


This invention provides methods and systems for producing high-grade biodiesel fuel oil from a fermentation process by combining lignocellulosic biomass with transgenic plant material that expresses the WRI1 transcription factor. Inclusion of the WRI1 transcription factor in the fermentation process significantly increases plant oil yields over current plant oil production methods. The invention enables the use of non-food plants for biodiesel production, and enables higher oil yields per crop acreage, which could lead to lower biodiesel costs. The method can also be used for ethanol feedstock processes that utilize lignocellosic biomass.


  • Lessens the use of food source plants for biodiesel feedstock: The process uses a combination of non-traditional plants and traditional food source crops rather than strictly food source crops.
  • Enables reduced biodiesel production costs: Feedstock derived from this process is potentially less expensive due to higher oil yields per crop acreage.
  • High-grade oil production: The quality of oil obtained from this process would meet current ASTM standards for biodiesel and can be used for other high-grade biofuel applications.
  • Simplified biofuel production process: This process can be operated in a factory setting and does not require a large agricultural footprint for production.


This invention is useful for increasing oil yields from crops used for feedstock for biodiesel, ethanol, and other products obtained from biomass.

IP Protection Status

Patent Pending
Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University - Test