ExxonMobil Corporation plans to invest more than $600 million over the next five years on a new biofuels programme, following the announcement

of its alliance with leading biotech company, Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI).

The plan is to research and develop next generation biofuels from photosynthetic algae, which is widely believed to be the most promising source of advanced biofuel,

in that it could avoid many of the downsides of today’s biofuels - ie competition with food crops; would ease emissions; and work within the existing motor technology and logistics. It could be transported through existing pipelines and sold through existing service stations.

"This investment comes after several years of planning and study and is an important addition to ExxonMobil’s ongoing efforts to advance breakthrough technologies to help meet the world’s energy challenges," said Dr Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company.

"Meeting the world’s growing energy demands will require a multitude of technologies and energy sources. We believe that biofuel produced by algae could be a meaningful part of the solution in the future if our efforts result in an economically viable, low-net carbon emission transportation fuel."

ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company has entered into a research and development alliance with SGI, a privately held company focused on developing genomic-driven solutions and founded by genome pioneer, Dr J Craig Venter, to develop advanced biofuels from photosynthetic algae that are compatible with today’s gasoline and diesel fuels.

"While significant work and years of research and development still must be completed, if successful, algae-based fuels could help meet the world’s growing demand for transportation fuel while reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Michael Dolan, senor vp ExxonMobil.