|Mascoma is developing a Consolidated Bioprocessing process that results in a simpler, lower-cost pathway for cellulosic ethanol. Click to enlarge. Source: DOE BESC|
General Motors Corp. and Mascoma Corp. have entered a strategic relationship to develop cellulosic ethanol based on Mascoma’s Consolidated Bioprocessing single-step biochemical conversion of non-grain biomass into low-carbon alternative fuels. (Earlier post.)
The relationship, which includes an undisclosed equity investment by GM, complements an earlier investment in Coskata, a cellulosic ethanol startup that uses a thermochemical syngas-to-ethanol process to make the fuel from non-grain sources. (Earlier post.)
Taken together, these technologies represent what we see as the best in the cellulosic ethanol future and cover the spectrum in science and commercialization. Demonstrating the viability of sustainable non-grain based ethanol is critical to developing the infrastructure to support the flex-fuel vehicle market.—GM President Fritz Henderson
Mascoma Corporation was founded in 2005 to pursue the development of advanced cellulosic ethanol technologies based on work developed in Professor Lee Lynd’s labs at Dartmouth College across a range of cellulosic feedstocks. Lynd is one of the scientific founders of Mascoma, as is Professor Charles Wyman.
Mascoma is developing a Consolidated Bioprocessing (CBP) approach to cellulosic ethanol. CBP involves the use of a single microorganism or group of organisms to break down plant matter through a one-step conversion process of biomass into biofuels—a single-step cellulose-to-ethanol method. This lowers costs by limiting additives and enzymes used in other biochemical processes. Mascoma’s process consists of a mild pretreatment followed by the introduction of cellulose-utilizing and ethanol-fermenting microbes that both hydrolyze and ferment the sugars into ethanol.
Mascoma has raised significant equity from venture capital investments and secured more than $60 million in state and federal grants, including the recent awarding of a $26 million grant from the US Department of Energy.
Based in Boston, privately-held Mascoma is using proprietary microorganisms developed at the company’s laboratories in Lebanon, N.H., and is collaborating with research partners globally to identify and patent additional biomass-to-ethanol technologies.
Mascoma is one of the partners in the DOE BioEnergy Science Center (BESC). BESC, led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is strongly focused on the fundamental understanding and elimination of biomass recalcitrance—the resistance of cellulosic biomass to enzymatic breakdown into sugars.
In November 2007, Mascoma acquired Celsys BioFuels, Inc., headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. Celsys was formed in 2006 to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology developed in the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering (LORRE) at Purdue University. The Celsys technology is based on proprietary pretreatment processes for multiple biomass feedstocks, including corn fiber and distiller grains. (Earlier post.)
Mascoma is testing its CBP technology and expects to begin producing ethanol later this year at its demonstration plant under construction in Rome, NY. Mascoma also has partnered with The University of Tennessee to develop a switchgrass-to-ethanol pilot facility near Knoxville, TN, and is pursuing opportunities in the state of Michigan.
GM’s multi-dimensional involvement with Mascoma will include projects to evaluate materials and other fuels for specific engine applications as well as collaborating on Mascoma’s efforts to expand its commercialization projects globally, including promotion of increased biofuels distribution.
Introduction to Mascoma (October 2007)