Italian President Sergio Mattarella congratulate the award winner Jens Nielsen for his research on the production of fuels from renewables, together with ENI chairman Emma Marcegaglia and chief executive Claudio Descalzi. Credit: ENI

Energy award to Jens Nielsen for biofuels from yeast

Professor Jens Nielsen is awarded the prestigious 'Energy Frontiers Award' by the Italian oil company ENI for research on the engineering of microorganisms that open new solutions for the production of fuels and chemical products from renewables.
"It is a very prestigious award to receive. Among the earlier winners are Nobel Prize laureates, and I am extremely proud to receive this prize for the research on how to produce hydrocarbons in yeast," says Jens Nielsen, professor in systems biology at Chalmers University of Technology.

To create a society that can do without fossil fuels, it is necessary to make it possible to sustainably produce chemicals that can be used as fuel for cars, trucks and aircraft. Biotechnology offers the opportunity to design microorganisms for the production of such chemicals, which can be integrated directly into the existing energy infrastructure of our society. 

Professor Jens Nielsen’s research on yeast in renewable fuel and chemical production has shown that through the engineering of the metabolism of baker’s yeast – already used industrially for bioethanol production – it is possible to improve the traditional production process, but also to produce chemicals that can be used as drop-in fuels for use with diesel and jet fuel. 

“We have succeeded in redirecting the metabolism in yeast so it can produce these new compounds in small scale, suitable for the production of jet fuel and other fuels, but also antibiotics, dietary supplements and other chemicals interesting for the food and life science industry,” says Jens Nielsen.

A technical-economic analysis has shown that biotechnology-based production of new biofuels could, if developed further, compete with petroleum-based fuels and make a significant contribution to the development of future energy solutions and a more sustainable society, according to the prize jury.


About the Eni Award
The prestigious ENI Award has been handed out by the Italian oil company ENI since 2007. Reflecting the ongoing energy transition the award is from 2017 given in eight different categories, with focus on research projects aiming at sustainable use of resources, reducing CO2 and promoting natural gas and renewable energy. Read more about the Eni Award​

Published: Tue 10 Oct 2017.