Direct Conversion of Organic Municipal Solid Waste to Lipids Using an Extremophilic Fungus

EPA Contract Number: EPD16007
Title: Direct Conversion of Organic Municipal Solid Waste to Lipids Using an Extremophilic Fungus
Investigators: Kozubal, Mark
Small Business: Sustainable Bioproducts, LLC
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: II
Project Period: February 1, 2016 through January 31, 2018 (Extended to January 31, 2019)
Project Amount: $300,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2015) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , SBIR - Biofuels


The United States produces significant quantities of waste materials that are discarded. These wastes include organic components of municipal solid waste (MSW), biosolids from wastewater treatment plants and agricultural wastes. The release of these materials and their byproducts into the environment can have serious consequences, such as pollution of ground and surface water resources and spread of disease. Current technologies to covert waste materials into fuels are typically limited by poor conversion efficiencies, the requirement for significant inputs and controls to sustain the conversion process, and the low cost of the produced fuel (e.g. biogas). Consequently, implementation and maintenance of these systems often require significant monetary subsidies.

Sustainable Bioproducts (SB) has developed a breakthrough low-cost, simple, and scalable microbial process for conversion of waste feedstocks such as organic MSW to high-value oils, which may be sold for production of biodiesel, biolubricants, or other industrial (e.g. paints) and consumer products (e.g. soaps). Our process is based on a novel fungal strain obtained from Yellowstone National Park that is capable of converting waste feedstocks to oils at significantly higher yields and rates compared to other studied microorganisms. Importantly, the oil is relatively easy to extract compared to other oil-producing organisms.

Phase I work concentrated on optimizing our process for MSW and results showed better than expected conversion yields of 60 gallons oil per metric tonne feedstock. Current market trends indicate that SB oils sold for biodiesel will be profitable using the three-year average price. SB oil will generate approximately $2.15 in net profit/gallon with available tax subsidies. SB is planning to develop high-oleic acid oils, which have a market value of up to $10 per gallon and are in high demand for industrial applications such as biolubricants, metalworking, and hydraulic fluids. Techno-economic analysis shows that Sustainable Bioproducts will generate at least $3.30 in net profit per gallon for these high-oleic oils. Furthermore, our process will decrease greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental pollution associated with the use of petroleum based products. The goal of our proposed Phase II work is to advance our oil conversion process utilizing MSW to larger-scale pilot systems. The specific objectives will be to: (1) scale-up our process with MSW to 100 liter bioreactors, (2) optimize harvesting and oil extraction methods, (3) determine oil properties using ASTM methods (e.g. viscosity), and (4) generate engineering process flow models with detailed techno-economic analysis for commercial systems.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final

  • SBIR Phase I:

    Direct Conversion of Municipal and Agricultural Wastes to Biodiesel and Ethanol Utilizing a Unique Extremophilic Fungus  | Final Report