The Nikkei reports that 16 major Japanese firms, including Toyota Motor Corp, Nippon Oil Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., will partner with universities and government agencies in a major effort to develop technology for low cost mass production of cellulosic ethanol from rice straw/hulls and used construction materials.
The goal is to drive down the production cost of cellulosic bioethanol to ¥40 per liter (US$1.367 per gallon US). The Nikkei cited no sources, and did not have a target date for the beginning of commercial scale production.
Production of bioethanol from sugar cane, seen as the most cost-effective material, currently costs about 140 yen per liter in Japan, somewhat higher than the retail price of gasoline. But existing technology can only succeed in cutting the cost to 100 yen.
Other participants in the bioethanol project include domestic companies from the petrochemical, biotechnology, food, plant engineering, agricultural machinery and automotive sectors.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reportedly will set up a joint panel on the production of biofuel on Wednesday, with companies, universities and others slated to launch studies on the topic and experiments next fiscal year.