Venturing & research

Explore how bp’s funding and integration of innovative ideas and technologies that drive net zero energy is key to rapidly transitioning America to a lower carbon future.

Explore Venturing & research
bp venturesBiosciences Center

A net zero future demands pushing boundaries of past thinking. bp invests millions in US companies, research and talent to develop ideas and then pipeline those solutions into the American economy.

From digital to biotech, see how transitioning to an integrated energy company means scientists, engineers and venture capitalists are innovating new low carbon and digital businesses.

Explore Venturing & research
bp venturesBiosciences Center

bp ventures

bp ventures helps drive low carbon innovation across America by investing in small companies with big potential.

Bringing net zero ideas to scale

Achieving net zero emissions of greenhouse gases will require the development and scale of a wide range of transformative technologies and business models.

Since 2006, we have invested more than $665 million in US companies aligned with our business priorities and strategies, including 37 clean technology and alternative energy companies.

Unlike traditional venture capital firms, bp serves as both investor and end-user of the technologies in which we invest. This helps us integrate promising startups into the broader innovation engine that powers our businesses. That is particularly true in the low carbon space, and many of our venture companies are leading the way.

Greening transportation

In the US, the transportation sector generates about 29% of total greenhouse gas emissions – the largest of any single economic sector. Primarily these emissions come from cars, trucks, ships, trains and airplanes. To reach net zero, the US must transform the way we move – and bp ventures is investing in greening the future of mobility.

Boosting electric vehicle (EV) charging

At bp, we want to make it easier for consumers to charge their electric vehicles (EVs) fairly and affordably. That’s one reason bp ventures invests in FreeWire Technologies, Inc., a California-based manufacturer of mobile EV rapid-charging systems.

FreeWire has accelerated the transition to low carbon mobility and our investment has bolstered the fast-growing EV supply equipment market while helping us gain valuable insights about customer demand.

Recently, FreeWire installed the country’s first ultra-fast battery-powered EV charging unit - The Boost ChargerTM. The charging unit was installed at an ampm retail station in Lodi, California as part of a pilot, and boasts 160 kilowatt hours (KWh) of battery capacity and 120KW output. This output allows for ultra-fast charging and is made possible because Freewire charging units combine the power stored in the units’ batteries with electricity from the grid. Without FreeWire, many locations wouldn’t be able to offer ultra-fast charging.

Fueling stations and convenience stores have had very few options to provide EV charging until now. With Boost Charger, EV drivers can get 100 miles of range in 10 minutes, and businesses can drive more revenue from new visitors to their store – all at a dramatically lower cost.

Arcady Sosinov
CEO of FreeWire

FreeWire is planning on installing additional units at new sites in California, Washington and Oregon in 2021 and beyond.

Pioneering low carbon, low-cost fuels

We’ve also invested $75 million in Fulcrum BioEnergy, another California-based company at the forefront of decarbonizing transportation. Fulcrum specializes in making low carbon, low-cost transportation fuels from one of our nation’s most abundant resources – household garbage.

In July 2021, Fulcrum announced it finished building the first-ever commercial-scale plant capable of turning household garbage into low-cost, zero-carbon transportation fuels. With construction complete, start-up and commissioning on the plant has commenced and fuel production is expected to begin during the fourth quarter of 2021.

When complete, the Sierra BioFuels Plant located east of Reno, Nevada, will convert an estimated175,000 tons of prepared municipal solid waste (MSW) into approximately 11 million gallons of zero-carbon syncrude annually, which will then be upgraded to transportation fuels such as sustainable aviation fuel, renewable diesel and renewable gasoline – Fulcrum Fuel™. This patented fuel is fully certified as a drop-in for use in airplanes, automobiles and trucks.

Digital transformation

Other bp investments have promoted digital efficiency and greater sustainability.

In the Houston area, we have invested in Belmont Technology, a startup that developed a cloud-based geoscience platform using artificial intelligence. The Belmont platform analyzes and interprets our subsurface data and then performs rapid simulations, helping us gather better information more quickly.

We have also invested in Xpansiv Limited, the world’s first commodity exchange built for data. As consumers demand more environmentally sustainable products, Xpansiv is pioneering the development of data-driven products, valued according to factors like methane emissions and water utilization. Xpansiv ingests data, sourced from each commodity’s lifecycle, and converts it into Intelligent Commodities™ – digital assets that enable transactions based on comprehensive information.

Innovative products for a more sustainable future

Our venture companies also include California-based Calysta Inc., and New Jersey–based Solidia Technologies.

Calysta converts natural gas into protein for fish, livestock and pet nutritional products that don’t interfere with the human food chain. The Calysta technology frees up land and resources to help meet growing food demand around the world.

Meanwhile, Solidia has found a remarkable way to limit carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions in cement production by up to 70% while enabling 80% of the water used in production to be recycled. For perspective, concrete and cement are the second most-used products on Earth, behind only water; the concrete industry accounts for 5–7% of global CO₂ emissions; and concrete production uses 3 trillion liters of fresh water each year.

All these investments support our larger strategic ambitions of reimagining energy, reinventing bp and moving toward net zero.

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Biosciences Center

Located in San Diego, bp’s Biosciences Center (BSC) is a key component of our global innovative and engineering business.

A woman wearing protective glasses analyses a vial in a laboratory

Cross-disciplinary excellence

The BSC conducts ground-breaking research and supports low carbon technology development and deployment as well as strategic investments and partnerships, all of which accelerate bp’s ambition to become a net zero company.

The team includes dozens of scientists and engineers with cross-disciplinary capabilities in biosciences, chemical engineering, industrial microbiology and computational sciences. At the BSC, we believe we’ve created a differentiated biotechnology capability, which includes some 80,000 tubes, vials and plates of biodiversity archives.

BSC team members also volunteer in their local community to help promote greater interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and to support local schools and education initiatives.

A bp employee wearing protective glasses works with technology on a research project.

Accelerating low carbon technology

BSC experts provide technology advisory services to a wide range of bp businesses. For example, they help our trading and shipping business with renewable natural gas and low carbon fuels project development, and they help bp ventures evaluate disruptive low carbon technologies and understand different investment possibilities.

In recent years, the BSC team has supported our investment in California-based Fulcrum BioEnergy, which in 2021 finished building the first-ever commercial-scale plant capable of turning household garbage into low-cost, zero-carbon transportation fuels. Meanwhile, the BSC continues to provide engineering support to our Brazilian bioenergy joint venture bp Bunge biofuels business.

Breakthroughs in biotechnology

We believe biotechnology has the potential to transform both the economics and the environmental impact of energy production, and we are constantly pursuing new research opportunities.

Between 2019 and 2021, the BSC team worked with UC –San Diego biological oceanographer Jeff Bowman to develop new digital tools using microbial information. Through our research with Dr. Bowman, we developed computational pipelines to analyze microbial DNA sequence data, along with machine learning models that can accurately predict microbially derived souring levels in hydrocarbons within lab-scale bioreactors.

bp is now testing these tools against other bioreactor and real-world field samples. As we enhance the microbial models over time, we believe they will help us better understand souring risks and potential solutions, which will make our operations safer, more reliable and more sustainable.

Other BSC research has examined opportunities for metal recovery from bp’s liquid wastewater streams and whether environmental DNA could help improve impact assessments and monitoring across our businesses.

Advanced materials for a net zero world

Beyond lab and business work, the BSC supports world-class independent research programs, including the bp International Centre for Advanced Materials (bp-ICAM).

bp-ICAM is a partnership between bp and selected globally leading universities to enable the effective application of advanced materials for the transition to net zero.

Teams work seamlessly to address a range of global energy industry challenges from hydrogen generation, thermal management and degradation of batteries, to improving asset operations and supporting the development of advanced fuels and lubricants.

Partnership with the University of Illinois

Since it was set-up in 2012, bp-ICAM has funded research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to help develop new materials that improve the safe operation and reliability of components and systems where routine inspection is difficult.

The numbers tell the story

bp has contributed

$11 million

for research at UIUC

The team has conducted

14 research projects

since 2012

The team has been granted

6 patents

because of its work

33 articles

have been published in leading academic journals

The team has presented at

22 conferences

throughout the world

In 2020, test panels of a self-healing coating developed at UIUC to address corrosion were prepared for long-term trials on bp assets. UIUC has also led efforts to develop lubricant-impregnated surfaces that enhance condensation and improve heat transfer coefficients for low surface tension fluids, such as alcohols or alkenes, which significantly improve operational efficiencies.

Further research at UIUC includes improvement in the design of choke valves to reduce erosion damage, developing novel membranes for water clean-up, design of novel sustainable catalysis for CO₂ conversion, understanding bio-feedstock corrosion and developing novel materials for rapid charging of batteries.

The BSC will remain a key driver of innovation for bp, supporting our businesses and helping us to deliver our net zero strategy.

University of Illinois

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has world leading expertise in surface science, biosciences, materials characterization, coatings, wear resistant self-organizing materials and materials that can autonomously indicate damage and heal themselves.

The University of Manchester (UK)

The University of Manchester is renowned for world-leading expertise in structural and functional materials, corrosion, smart coatings, catalysis, electrochemistry, biotechnology and energy storage.

Cambridge University (UK)

The University of Cambridge has world-renowned capabilities in areas such as metallurgy, civil engineering, biotechnology, molecular and fluid modelling, 2-D materials, surface chemistry and modelling of physical and chemical processes.

Imperial College London

Imperial College London has distinctive expertise in membranes and other adsorbent technologies for separations. Its skills in surface science and characterization, electrochemistry, tribology and corrosion science are used in several ICAM projects.

  • [1]

    Source: Platts Daily April 2021

  • [2]

    Source: Megawatt Daily, 2021 Wholesale Power Sales Statistics (June 16, 2021)

  • [3]

    IEA report – The Role of gas in today’s energy transitions

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