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DOE Awards $23 Million For Development of Highly Efficient Fermentative Organisms for Cellulosic Ethanol Production

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded more than $23 million in federal funding for five projects focused on developing highly efficient fermentative organisms to convert biomass material to ethanol. 

The award for these five cellulosic ethanol projects follows the award of $385 million in federal funds to six cellulosic biorefinery projects announced earlier this year. (Earlier post.)  Commercialized fermentative organisms will be crucial to achieving commercial scale in cellulosic ethanol refining.

Projects were selected for the organism’s capacity to convert lignocellulosic biomass to ethanol—i.e., to ferment C5 and C6 sugars—in process-relevant conditions that would be economical in the commercial market.  Additionally, the organism must be able to survive a wide range of environmental conditions and remain stable from adverse mutation.

Base strains that could be adapted for specific process schemes are needed on a widely available basis. Such strains need to be able to convert a wide range of sugars at rates, yields and titers commensurate with production strain requirements and tolerate the potentially inhibitory environment of pretreated lignocellulosic biomass.

From an analysis of the present status of technology and future targets regarding the use of biomass hydrolyzates for ethanol production, the following are critical parameters necessary for the development of a cost-competitive process:

  1. High yield or, equivalently, full sugar utilization with minimal byproduct formation;

  2. High final ethanol titer;

  3. High overall volumetric productivity;

  4. Tolerance to inhibitors present in hydrolyzates; and

  5. Affordable microbial systems.

—from the Funding Opportunity Document

Combined with the industry cost share, more than $37 million could be invested in these five projects.  Negotiations between the selected companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels.  Funding will begin this fiscal year and run through FY 2010, subject to congressional appropriations.

Projects submitted by these five applicants were selected:

  1. Cargill Incorporated to receive up to $4.4 million;

  2. Celunol Corporation to receive up to $5.3 million;

  3. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Company to receive up to $3.7 million;

  4. Mascoma Corporation to receive up to $4.9 million; and

  5. Purdue University to receive up to $5.0 million.




I thought conservative were against having government pick "winners and losers" and preferred to have the market system make those choices.

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