|The decrease in enzyme cost brings the low end of cellulosic ethanol production cost below the high end of corn ethanol production cost. Source: Novozymes. Click to enlarge.|
Novozymes has launched what it called the first commercially viable enzymes for production of biofuel from agricultural waste.
The new Cellic CTec2 enzymes enable the biofuel industry to produce cellulosic ethanol at a price below US$2.00 per gallon for the initial commercial-scale plants that are scheduled to be in operation in 2011. This cost is on par with gasoline and conventional ethanol at the current US market prices.
Fermentative cellulosic ethanol production uses enzymes to break down cellulose in biomass, following pretreatment, into sugars that can be fermented into ethanol. Cellic CTec2 has proven to work on many different feedstock types, including corn cobs and stalks, wheat straw, sugarcane bagasse, and woodchips.
Novozymes’s CEO Steen Riisgaard, who announced the launch at a press briefing at the Renewable Fuels Association’s 15th Annual National Ethanol Conference, noted that:
When I was employed 30 years ago as a researcher, I was put on this project. We had to give up for awhile, but we started again 10 years ago. It is a big thing to be standing here today.
|Advances in enzyme technology reduce the dose by up to 50%, resulting in a use cost of as low as $0.50/gallon. Source: Novozymes. Click to enlarge.|
Advances in enzyme development have enabled the reduction of the enzyme dose by up to 50%, resulting in an enzyme use cost of as low as $0.50 per gallon—reflecting a reduction in enzyme use cost for cellulosic ethanol by 80% over the past two years. Novozymes said it has allocated unprecedented resources to the project, and the company has also received development grants totaling US$29.3 million from the US Department of Energy.
Novozymes has partnered with leading companies in the biofuel industry worldwide, such as POET, Greenfield Ethanol, Inbicon, Lignol, ICM, M&G, CTC, COFCO, Sinopec, and PRAJ to help accelerate process technology development and implementation. Coupled with further improvements in enzyme efficiency, Novozymes expects the cost to produce cellulosic biofuel to be further reduced.
Cellulosic ethanol will be cheaper. Our partners expect production costs to fall below USD 2.00 per gallon once their first commercial scale plants are fully operational, and the cost will continue to drop in the future.
A number of pilot- and demonstration-scale facilities are in operation globally, while large-scale commercial facilities are under construction and scheduled to be operational in 2011.
Novozymes welcomed the recent support from the Obama Administration in the form of the RFS2 rules from the EPA (earlier post), saying it will reignite investments in new biorefineries across the US. However, the company noted, removing the E10 blend wall to enable a move to higher blends such as E15 and the promotion of E85 are still needed to meet the cellulosic ethanol targets defined by the Renewable Fuel Standard.
To achieve the full potential, cellulosic ethanol needs infrastructure development, expedited funding to build commercial scale plants, and increased ethanol demand.