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BP teams with MIT on energy conversion technologies

Research will focus on low-carbon approaches to converting coal, petroleum coke and other feedstocks into fuels and power.

Fuels giant BP has committed a minimum of $25 million over the next five years to fund research on low-carbon emitting fuels at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The partnership, announced on Tuesday, will focus on converting "low value" materials, such as petroleum coke and coal, into electricity, liquid fuels and chemicals. BP will also officially participate in MIT's universitywide Energy Initiative to develop greener energy technologies.

The work will focus on simulation technologies to speed up research on converting different feedstocks to fuels or electricity. Other research areas include gasification and synthetic gas technologies.

Renewable energies like solar and wind power are perhaps the cleanest, but conversion of biomass in various forms will likely be a big part of the energy picture of the future.

Coal, although a very dirty fuel, is abundant in many places around the world, notably the U.S. and China. Petroleum coke is a byproduct of fuel exploration, notably in tar sands of Alberta, Canada where oil is being extracted.

Technologies such as gasification--where high pressure and heat chemically change a feedstock--are being pursued in biofuels. Coal gasification is also considered a cleaner process than burning coal for electricity.