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BioEthanol Japan Begins Production of Cellulosic Ethanol from Wood Scraps; Uses Celunol Technology

BioEthanol Japan on Tuesday became the world’s first company to produce cellulosic ethanol from wood construction waste on a commercial basis.

The plant in Osaka Prefecture has an annual capacity of 1.4 million liters (about 370,000 gallons US). In 2008, it plans to boost production to 4 million liters (1 million gallons).

BioEthanol Japan was established in 2004 by five companies, including construction firm Taisei Corp., major trading house Marubeni Corp., Daiei Inter Nature System, and beermaker Sapporo Breweries Ltd.

Marubeni is supplying the process technology, which it has licensed from US-based Celunol (earlier post), to BioEthanol Japan. Marubeni is also supplying the same technology for a wood ethanol project in Asia, and is also involved in a bioethanol project using sugar cane in Thailand run by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

Celunol is a privately held company headquartered in Dedham, Massachusetts moving rapidly to commercialize its proprietary technology for producing ethanol from a wide array of cellulosic biomass feedstocks, including bagasse, agricultural waste, wood products and dedicated energy crops.

The key element of Celunol’s technology is genetically engineered Escherichia coli bacteria that can ferment both C6 (hexose) and C5 (pentose) sugars present in cellulosic biomass.

BioEthanol Japan will begin supplying automobile fuel for certification tests being conducted by the Ministry of Environment.

Japan’s government has launched an initiative eventually to substitute 10% of its annual gasoline requirements, or about 6 million kiloliters (1.6 billion gallons US), with domestically produced biofuels.



Mark A

How many acres of untapped forests does Japan have, to use as the fuel choice? Seems unwise to rely on wood construction waste in an already crowded country.


There can't be a lot of wood waste since there isn't likely a whole lot of wood there---as you said. One possibility is they may import the wood waste, although that can't be a very cost effective process. The whole article sounds good on paper, but not very feasible in the real world.


Did you guys read the article? Waste from wood construction. The stuff thats left over from building a wood frame building or demolition of a wood structure. This stuff usally ends up in landfill or is just burned. This will not meet their goal of 10% but is a step in that direction.


There are huge sections of Japanese forests that were replanted, but in monoculture fashion. From a distance, one does no notice it. However, if were to drive through some, you would see neatly spaced, single (or sometimes dual) species stands.


Yes, and it is step in the right direction. Recycling and reusing construction/demolition waste results in reduced material consumption, as well as less mateial that ends up in landfill. Cement/concrete, bricks, wood, and asphalt all can be reused and recycled, with large GHG savings. Needless to say, the same goes for all metals.

Roger Pham

Imagine if this genetically-engineered E. coli escape from the biochemical plant and into the wild or food supply. Then we will have a heck of an epidemic of people getting high (or drunk) on their food supply. Imagine people failing breath analyzer tests without drinking. Not exactly a doomsday scenario, since this E. coli is certainly a lot more pleasant than the strain that caused severe illness from contaminated spinach. Imagine sanitized farts (flatus) with pleasant alcohol smell!
And well, if you're gonna see a lot more wry humors in GCC to come, perhaps you'll have one more possible cause to blame it on.


If they can do wood, perhaps they can do rice straw as well. I assume that they grow some rice in Japen.

shaun mann

it is an international company.

why get hung up on japan's supply of waste wood feedstock?

they are probably doing the development there b/c they got funding or b/c fuel is expensive or b/c getting rid of waste wood is expensive.

the tech will migrate to other places once it is economical. New Zealand, which exports a large amount of wood to Japan, has high fuel prices, and an environmentally-minded population would be a natural step.

An Engineer

I am not generally a fan of ethanol, but this is a step in the right direction (Waste -> Fuel).

The plants are still at demonstration scale (24 bbl/d; scaled up 69 bbl/d) and they are building a 90 bbl/d plant in Louisianna. They envision full scale plants to be 1,600 - 3,300 bbl/d.

This would be one technology that could be used in the US to convert the 1.3 billion ton a year of forestry and agricultural waste into liquid fuels. Feedstock is the least of their problems.

kent beuchert

Why are people determined to produce ethanol? Take the damm wood, burn it in a power plant to make electricirty and charge the batteries of electric cars. Efficiency -wise, ethanol production from wood is a totally absurd

An Engineer

You are right about ethanol. Your enthusiasm for electric cars runs ahead of the existing technology though. Take the excitement about the Chevy Volt: great concept, only the batteries still need to be invented. Could take a few years, could take a few decades. Who knows?

Take the damm (sic) wood, gasify it, convert the gas to liquid hydrocarbons, and use in the existing fleet (and fuel distribution network) with no modifications!


There is a similar waste-to-fuel technology, or BioOil, which is worth an attention.

Check it up:

Any comment would be appreciated.

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