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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