Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. and enzyme provider Novozymes have entered a research collaboration to co-develop customized plant varieties and enzyme cocktails for the production of cellulosic biofuel.
The companies expect to improve the process of converting biomass to fuel through more effective enzymes and higher quality energy crops in a joint optimization project that will lead to greater fuel yields, as well as lower capital and operating costs.
Ceres and Novozymes will initially work to determine the best enzyme cocktails for the biorefining of Ceres’ commercial switchgrass seed products. The partners will also begin similar evaluations of sweet sorghum, and Ceres’ researchers plan to develop customized plant varieties that can be degraded more easily by Novozymes’ enzymes. Enzymes can convert the biomass from energy crops into sugar which can then be used to produce biofuel and other bio-products.
Spencer Swayze, senior manager of business development at Ceres, says that through advanced plant breeding and other genomics-based tools, Ceres scientists are developing energy crops that minimize the components in biomass shown to decrease conversion rates and yields. One of the advantages of dedicated energy crops is the ability to better control composition.
I envision a day when we can approach conversion facilities and their feedstock suppliers with a complete package of tailored seed varieties and enzymes as well as crop management and processing recommendations. Relatively small percentage changes in efficiency can result in substantial process savings and lower capital and operating costs.—Spencer Swayze