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Diversa Corporation Joins Forces With New Zealand Crown Research Institutes to Develop Cellulosic Biofuels Industry in New Zealand

Diversa Corporation has formed a research program with New Zealand Crown Research Institutes Scion and AgResearch. The partners have agreed to coordinate their technology development initiatives to target the feasibility of a cellulosic transportation biofuel industry in New Zealand.

The three organizations have recently completed a preliminary study, undertaken at Scion in Rotorua and Diversa in San Diego, to investigate the potential for applying Diversa’s enzymes to New Zealand-grown tree stocks to convert the wood into sugars, which can then be fermented and refined into ethanol and other products.

Diversa will employ its proprietary metagenomic enzyme discovery and optimization technologies in order to develop robust enzymes designed for cost-effective wood biomass conversion and to improve fermentation performance. Diversa is a leader in the development of high-performance specialty enzymes, with commercialized enzyme products and development-stage programs in the biofuels sector.

Scion Chief Executive, Dr. Tom Richardson, says the results from the preliminary study are extremely positive, which has prompted the three organizations to agree to move forward and conduct a feasibility study to further assess the technology and economics of a transportation biofuel industry in New Zealand.

In addition to determining the technical and economic feasibility of a New Zealand cellulosic biofuels industry, the new study will produce a roadmap to identify potential risks or barriers to commercialization as well as specific technical and commercialization plans. If the results of the feasibility study are positive, the three organizations will work together to bring this vision to reality.

This is one of the most exciting and profound projects I have ever been involved in, and we are looking forward to deploying Diversa’s powerful enzyme discovery and development technologies to create new cocktails of enzymes to convert wood to ethanol cost-effectively.

This represents an opportunity to have a positive impact on the future of New Zealand and other countries with abundant cellulosic biomass such as wood. Successfully developing new cocktails of enzymes to convert wood to ethanol could really change the paradigm of energy thought and policy.

We are combining our enzyme technologies with the research capability and expertise at Scion and AgResearch to determine whether a biofuel industry would work in New Zealand.

—Edward Shonsey, Diversa CEO

Although the plantation forests in New Zealand provide a standing biomass resource, the partners will also assess a range of other potential feed stocks such as grass. The Forage Biotechnology and Forage Improvement teams at AgResearch will provide the expertise for this component of the project.

More than 50% of New Zealand’s energy use is fossil-fuel based, with the country consuming more than 840 million gallons of gasoline annually.

Earlier in January, Diversa entered into a new 10-year research and development partnership with Syngenta focused on the discovery and development of a range of novel enzymes to convert pre-treated cellulosic biomass economically to mixed sugars for fermentation into biofuels. (Earlier post.)

AgResearch is New Zealand’s largest Crown Research Institute with acknowledged expertise in biological science, therefore having a key role to play in boosting the productivity of a bio-dependent economy.

Scion is a Crown Research Institute developing sustainable biomaterials. Scion is focused on applying a deep knowledge of plantation forestry, wood and fiber to the development of new biomaterials from renewable plant resources.



I guess the biggest problem I have with this - and other fermentation schemes - is that they are all batch processes. I doubt that the efficiency of biofuels will ever become effective until we discover continuing processes.

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