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COFCO, Sinopec and Novozymes to Build Cellulosic Biofuel Demonstration Facility in China by 2011

Enzyme company Novozymes, COFCO, a leading producer and supplier of processed agricultural products, and Sinopec, the world’s third-largest oil refiner, signed a Memorandum of Understanding covering the next steps towards commercialization of cellulosic biofuel in China.

As part of the agreement, COFCO and Sinopec will build a cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant for which Novozymes will supply the enzymes. The new plant comes online in the third quarter of 2011 and will produce three million gallons of bioethanol made from corn stover a year.

In February, Novozymes launched new Cellic CTec2, an enzyme product enabling the biofuel industry to produce cellulosic ethanol at a price competitive with gasoline and conventional ethanol. (Earlier post.)

In 2009, we forged this partnership in China to develop biofuel from agricultural waste; today, we are one step closer to producing commercial quantities. With gasoline prices hovering around $4 per gallon in China, companies across the country are reaffirming their commitment to investing in development of clean, alternative fuel sources.

—Michael Christiansen, President, Novozymes China

The new plant will be the largest demonstration facility converting agricultural waste into biofuel in China. China has an adequate supply of biomass, and agricultural residues alone exceed 700 million metric tons annually.

A 2009 study by Novozymes and McKinsey showed that by converting agricultural residues into fuel ethanol, China can reduce its gasoline consumption by 31 million tons in 2020, thereby reducing its dependence on imported petroleum by 10% and abating 90 million tons of CO2 emissions. By doing so this industry will create 6 million direct jobs, resulting in an RMB 32 billion (around US$4.7 billion) income increase annually.

By 2020, the number of cars in China is expected to exceed 200 million, up from 130 million today, which will lead to substantial growth in the demand for vehicle fuels. To meet these rising demands, the Chinese government has launched an ambitious bioenergy development target that will boost the production of cellulosic biofuels.

COFCO and Novozymes have cooperated for the past three years and as part of that agreement, COFCO runs a small-scale pilot plant. COFCO will continue to operate the pilot plant and contribute its knowledge on grain processing and production of biofuel.

Sinopec owns around 30,000 gasoline stations and has a 60% share in China’s refined-oil market.


Henry Gibson

Mandates and massive subsidies by governments have made the untrue belief that there is enough biomass for fuels profitable. No persons in government even do the arithmetic of adding up the total energy in food produced, including non edible material, and then compare it with the fossil energy now being used in a modern society in much greater amount. These biomaterials, edible or not by man, all have present uses, and since ethanol is also a food, it is demonstrated that materials used for bioethanol are sources of food. Cows and goats have been demonstrating this for millenia.

Even simple and cheap hydraulic hybrid automobiles have demonstrated that fuel consumption for automobiles can be reduced by as much as half without even changes to vehicle size or engine size.

Long before mandates are passed for biofuels, mandates should be passed for hybrid automobiles, smaller engines and co-generation for all buildings including homes.

China must increase its factories for making liquid fuels and chemicals and plastics from coal in order to remove its economy from the grip of the speculative conspiracy in the oil market. It does not increase the greenhouse effect massively, if any, to make liquid fuels from coal. Oil spills, methane and other releases of greenhouse gases prior to the filling of the automobile tank with products of crude oil are hidden by the the producers and exporters and extreme environmentalists.

In any case, any additional greenhouse effects from using coal to produce automotive fuels can be more than eliminated with the use of hydraulic hybrid automobiles at no cost to the consumer. Artemis and Innas-NOAX have invented and tested simple machinery to do this as have others. Plug-In-Electric hybrids also reduce greenhouse effects even if coal is the fuel source. There is no real accounting done of the natural gas releases and oil spills happening in Russia alone. Organisms convert much of the oil spilled soon into CO2.

Another way to make up for the greenhouse effect of the use of coal for automotive fuels is to use fission reactors for more and more electric production and divert the coal to liquid fuels.

China also is now in a position to retrofit its new large city areas with heat directly from fission reactors. Such reactors, mainly used for heat production only, can be inexpensive because no high pressure steam pipes and large expensive electric turbine generators need to be built and paid for. No cooling towers are needed as the heat is devoted entirely to supply heating and cooling to buildings. When a building is cooled with heat driven devices they have their own small cooling devices to put the excess heat into the air.

The reactors can be very small and can be buried a hundred meters or less below the areas of the city that they serve, and it is imposible for such small units to have a steam boiler failure like Chernobyl did, and any type of failure even the size of Chernobyl failure is completely contained by the earth. The depth below the buildings allow for natural hot water circulation without pumps and can continue reactor cooling automatically even after the fission reaction is stopped.

Such units should be considered artificial sources of geothermal energy. Every building can have its own small geothermal electric generator in a cogeneration system that uses most of the heat instead of wasting more than two thirds of it as is done in nuclear power stations.

The Chinese have tested pebble bed reactors already and a lead cooled version with natural circulation to a naturally circulated hot water loop can be quickly designed and built in small sizes. Other proposed small units may even be more suitable.

Greatly reducing the use of fuels in large and small cities with heat from tiny fission reactors is one of the cheapest ways to eliminate the production of green house gases. Molten salts can be also used to deliver heat to buildings at low presures but higher temperatures than water if needed, but water at temperatures just below the boiling temperature is good enough for cooking and some geothermal energy. It is far more than hot enough to provide heat for the production of fresh water from waste water or even sea water if multi-effect distilation is used.

Simply heating water to nearly boiling and cooling it with counterflow heat exchangers can eliminate most organisms at very low energy cost.

All food refrigerators can operate from such heat by using the Platen-Munters system found in caravan refrigerators.

Artificial methane (natural gas) could be fermented from coal by organisms trained for that purpose, and the oxygen necessary for producing energy for this process can be supplied by formic acid, acetic acid, iron oxides or carbon monoxide perhaps. This would prevent most of the air pollution from coal use, and the CO2 produced by the process can be easily captured for other uses. Every large building can also afford to capture the CO2 when the methane is burnt. It would be very good if methanol could be fermented from coal, but it and methane are now made from coal by large chemical factories. Automobiles and especially railway locomotives can be built to capture CO2 and H2O and become zero emission vehicles much cheaper than they can be fitted with hydrogen fuel cells. ..HG..


HG: There are not enough biomass to replace 100% of the liquid fuel for the next two or three decades. However, as ground transports are progressively electrified and aircraft become more fuel efficient, liquid fuel demand should gradually come down. After 2030, waste and many non-edible feed stocks together with other future technologies could supply a more important portion of the liquid fuel required. Anyway, 80+% of the gas stations may be closed by then.

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