Toyota Motor Corp exhibits biotechnology and greening technologies; new xylose-fermenting yeast for cellulosic ethanol

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) held an event at its Toyota Biotechnology and Afforestation Laboratory in Aichi prefecture to showcase technologies developed there as part of its biotechnology and afforestation businesses. Technology on display included a newly developed yeast that increases the production yield of cellulosic ethanol, new technologies for the... Read more →


Iowa State researchers developing low-cost thermochemical process to produce sugars from biomass for bio-fuels and -chemicals; “pyrolytic molasses”

Iowa State University (ISU) researchers have developed technologies to efficiently produce, recover and separate sugars from the fast pyrolysis of biomass. Fast pyrolysis involves quickly heating the biomass without oxygen to produce liquid or gas products. ISU’s Robert C. Brown calls the result of the process “pyrolytic molasses.” Low-cost sugars... Read more →


Overview of the Plantrose supercritical hydrolysis process. Click to enlarge. Renmatix (formerly Sriya Innovations), which exited stealth mode earlier this year, unveiled its Plantrose process, a supercritical hydrolysis process to produce sugars from biomass with less expense. At Renmatix’s demonstration facility in Kennesaw, Georgia, the company has already scaled its... Read more →


Chrysler Group LLC and ZeaChem Inc. enter into Memorandum of Understanding to support development and commercialization of cellulosic ethanol

Chrysler Group LLC and ZeaChem Inc. have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)for the initiation of a strategic alliance to accelerate the development and market adoption of cellulosic ethanol. The partners say the primary alliance goals are to strengthen the credibility among regulators and American consumers of cellulosic ethanol... Read more →


Researchers identify gene controlling ethanol intolerance in C. thermocellum; a basis for rational engineering of optimized microbial strains for cellulosic ethanol production

A team of researchers at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) has identified the gene that controls ethanol intolerance in Clostridium thermocellum, a thermophilic, obligately anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium that is a candidate microorganism for converting cellulosic biomass into ethanol through consolidated bioprocessing. Among fermentation-based conversion processes of... Read more →


Researchers identify cocktail of enzymes from termites and symbionts that break down cellulose; benefits for cellulosic biofuel production

Researchers at Purdue University led by Mike Scharf, the O. Wayne Rollins/Orkin Chair in Molecular Physiology and Urban Entomology, have identified a cocktail of enzymes from the guts of termites that may be better at getting around the barriers that inhibit fuel production from woody biomass. The findings, published in... Read more →


EPA proposes 2012 Renewable Fuel Standards, 2013 biomass-based diesel volume

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the 2012 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS2). The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) established the annual renewable fuel volume targets, which steadily increase to an overall level of... Read more →


Oak Ridge team reveals surface structure of lignin; highly folded surface impedes enzymatic hydrolysis

A first of its kind combination of experiment and simulation at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is providing a close-up look at the lignin molecule that complicates next-generation biofuels. Lignin, a major component of plant cell walls, aggregates to form clumps, which cause problems during... Read more →


Kobe Univ. researchers develop yeast capable of direct fermentation from cellulosic materials to produce ethanol

In a proof-of-concept study, a team from Kobe University (Japan) has developed a diploid yeast strain optimized for expression of cellulolytic enzymes, which is capable of directly fermenting from cellulosic materials to produce ethanol without the use of additional enzymes to break down the cellulose. Their open access paper is... Read more →


G2BioChem’s process design and patents, applied across the three phases of the planned demo plant. Source: G2BioChem. Click to enlarge. GreenField Ethanol, Canada’s largest ethanol producer, announced the launch of G2BioChem, a collaborative effort between GreenField, industrial process solutions company Andritz and enzyme developer Novozymes. The group is committed to... Read more →


TMO Renewables partners with COFCO and CNOOC on second-generation ethanol in China; cassava residue and stalks

UK-based TMO Renewables Ltd, the developer of a novel thermophilic bacterium and process for converting biomass into fuel ethanol (earlier post), has entered into two separate technology partnerships in China. One is with the Bio-energy and Bio-chemical Division of COFCO, China’s largest diversified products and services supplier in the agribusiness... Read more →


Viability of Mitsubishi Heavy cellulosic ethanol technology verified; MHI looking to commercialize it with partners

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has successfully developed technology to produce cellulosic ethanol for automobile fuel satisfying the standards of the Japanese Automotive Standards Organization (JASO) from feedstocks such as rice straw and barley straw. Verification of the technology was conducted as a joint project involving the government, academia, and... Read more →


The conversion of biomass to cellulosic ethanol is the most efficient and productive use of biomass to create a high-octane, environmentally friendly transportation fuel, according to a perspective paper published in the Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology. Authors of the paper are Rathin Datta, cellulosic ethanol company Coskata’s chief... Read more →


Study finds that overfertilizing corn degrades capacity for cellulosic biofuel production

A study led by researchers from Rice University has found that overfertilizing corn grown for ethanol is bad for the production of cellulosic biofuel as well as for the environment. In a study published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, the team found that increases in biomass in... Read more →


Proposed allocation of 2011-2012 investment plan. Click to enlarge. The staff of the California Energy Commission has prepared a draft 2011-2012 Investment Plan for the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, its third year of program funding. Anticipated funding for fiscal year 2011-2012 is approximately $100 million, with... Read more →


Cosan and Shell introduce Raízen, their $12B Brazilian ethanol JV

Royal Dutch Shell and Cosan SA have introduced Raízen, their Brazilian ethanol joint venture. The new company will be one of the top five companies in the country in revenues, with estimated market value of US$12 billion and approximately 40,000 employees. (Earlier post.) Raízen will be responsible for the production... Read more →


Researchers identify dozens of new microbial enzymes in cow rumen that could contribute to breakdown of biomass for biofuel production

Researchers have used a metagenomic analysis to discover dozens of previously unknown microbial enzymes in the bovine rumen—the cow’s primary grass-digestion chamber—that contribute to the breakdown of switchgrass, a renewable biofuel energy source. The study, reported in the current issue of the journal Science, tackles a major barrier to the... Read more →


USDA providing $405M in conditional loan guarantees for three biorefinery projects

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $405 million in conditional loan guarantees for three biorefinery projects, all of which use gasification as an initial stage in their processes. The Biorefinery Assistance Program (Section 9003 of the 2008 Farm Bill) provides loan guarantees to entrepreneurs seeking to take advantage... Read more →


Valero invests in Mascoma; to invest up to $50M in commercial wood-based cellulosic ethanol biorefinery

Valero Energy Corporation, the US’ largest independent oil refiner, has invested in cellulosic biofuels and consolidated bioprocessing company Mascoma Corporation (earlier post). Further, Mascoma, Valero, and Mascoma’s operating subsidiary, Frontier Renewable Resources LLC, jointly owned with natural resource management company, J.M. Longyear LLC, have signed a non-binding letter of intent... Read more →


Study concludes US will not meet Renewable Fuel targets with ethanol as primary biofuel

If ethanol is the US’ primary biofuel, it will be “essentially impossible” to achieve the federal Renewable Fuel Standard volume mandates because of the ethanol blending limit (the “blend wall”), regardless of whether it is the current 10% or raised to 15%, according to a study by researchers at Purdue... Read more →


Praj Industries and Qteros partner to accelerate global commercialization of cellulosic ethanol; Qteros closes Series C financing tranche

India-based Praj Industries Limited and Qteros, Inc., the developer of a Consolidated Bioprocessing (CBP) platform for low-cost production of cellulosic ethanol using the Q-microbe (earlier post), have formed a strategic partnership to accelerate commercialization efforts for industrial-scale cellulosic ethanol production. Qteros also announced that it has closed the initial tranche... Read more →


Mitsui Engineering and palm oil producer Sime Darby to partner on cellulosic ethanol from palm oil Empty Fruit Bunches; Inbicon technology

Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding and Malaysia-based Sime Darby Research Sdn. Berhad (SDR) (the research and development division of Sime Darby [SD], the world’s leading palm oil producer), have agreed to build and to operate a demonstration plant to produce cellulosic ethanol from palm oil Empty Fruit Bunches (EFB). MES has... Read more →


Newly engineered yeast can simultaneously ferment glucose and xylose to produce ethanol; significant cost benefits in ethanol production

A collaborative led by researchers at the University of Illinois and including the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of California at Berkeley, Seoul National University and BP have engineered a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae—the common industrial yeast—to co-ferment glucose and xylose simultaneously to produce ethanol. In a process of... Read more →


Researchers identify genes in yeast that increase ethanol tolerance; may boost cellulosic ethanol production

Research published in the journal Genetics identifies new genes that improve ethanol tolerance in yeast cells, with the goal of generating higher ethanol concentrations for biofuel production. Industrial stresses, including ethanol stress, limit microbial fermentation and hinder cost-competitiveness with fossil fuels. Improved ethanol tolerance, for example, allows yeast to produce... Read more →


Brookhaven team uncovers details of transport of lignin precursors across plant cellular membranes

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have unraveled some of the details of how precursors to lignin are transported across cellular membranes prior to linking up. The key finding, that the process requires a class of energy-dependent transporter molecules (ATP), may provide a way to... Read more →


Agrivida’s cell wall degrading (CWD) technology. Poster from 2010 ARPA-E Summit. Click to enlarge. Agrivida, Inc. and Syngenta Ventures will collaborate to develop advanced crop technology that will provide low-cost sugars from cellulosic biomass for a variety of industrial applications including biofuels and biochemicals without requiring external enzymes for biomass... Read more →


Researchers use adaptation to boost ability of bacterium to produce ethanol

Researchers at Georgia Tech have applied adaption (adaptive mutation) to a strain of the bacterium Zymomonas mobilis to increase its ability to produce ethanol. The research, published in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering, shows how adaptation and metabolic engineering can be combined for strain improvement. Z. mobilis is noted for... Read more →


Purdue researchers identify final gene responsible for phenylalanine; potential to optimize plants for cellulosic biofuel by decreasing lignin

Purdue University scientists have found the last undiscovered gene responsible for the production of the amino acid phenylalanine, a discovery that could lead to processes to control the amino acid to boost plants’ nutritional values and produce better biofuel feedstocks. A paper on the work was published in the journalNature... Read more →


BCG’s analysis finds that cellulosic ethanol is on the verge of becoming cost-competitive with gasoline at $3/gal US. Click to enlarge. Advanced biofuels, concentrated solar power (CSP), and solar photovoltaic power (PV) will see accelerating adoption and growth and are on track to change the global energy mix far earlier... Read more →


Scope of the DISCO project. Click to enlarge. The EU-funded project known as DISCO (Discovery of Novel Enzymes & Reaction Mechanisms for Lignocellulose Hydrolysis), is halfway through its four-year quest to develop more efficient and cost-effective enzyme tools from microorganisms to produce bioethanol from lignocellulosic biomass waste—such as spruce chips... Read more →


TMO Renewables Signs 20-Year, Multi-site Waste-to-Ethanol Plant Contract with Fiberight

UK-based TMO Renewables Ltd, the developer of a novel thermophilic bacterium and process for converting biomass into fuel ethanol (earlier post), has entered into an exclusive contract with Fiberight LLC to design and build waste to bioethanol plants in the US. The contract, which lasts for 20 years, is potentially... Read more →


Report Finds That Biomass-Derived Ethanol in Europe Could Replace Up to 62% of Gasoline Consumption

Transforming agricultural residues into next-generation ethanol and biochemicals could create up to one million jobs in the EU27 by 2020, while theoretically replacing up to 62% of the EU’s forecast fossil-based gasoline consumption, according to a new study released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance with the support of Novozymes and... Read more →


Researchers Isolate Two Enzymes from Termites to Break Up Lignin; Potential Boon to Cellulosic Ethanol

A team of researchers from the University of Florida and the biotechnology company Chesapeake-PERL Inc. of Savage, Md. have isolated two enzymes termites use to break up lignin. During ethanol production, lignin molecules are clumped around the sugar molecules, forming a barrier the microbes often can’t penetrate; the material must... Read more →


The KLE process. Click to enlarge. Petrobras, via Petrobras America, entered into a Joint Development Agreement with KL Energy Corporation (KLE) to optimize KLE’s proprietary cellulosic ethanol process technology for sugarcane bagasse feedstock. As part of this agreement, Petrobras will provide $11 million to adapt KLE’s demonstration facility to the... Read more →


NSF Awards $510K to NDSU and Clarkson Researchers to Explore Use of Nanostructured Enzyme Capsules for Hydrolysis of Biomass for Fuels

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $510,335 to a collaboration between North Dakota State University and Clarkson University researchers professors for a research project to improve conversion and reduce costs of making fuels from cellulosic biomass. The goal of the project—“pH-Responsive Capsules for Enhanced Delivery and Recovery of Cellulases... Read more →


Süd-Chemie to Build Cellulosic Ethanol Demonstration-Scale Plant for sunliquid Process in Germany

Süd-Chemie AG, a global specialty chemical companies for catalysts and adsorbents based in Munich, is to build a cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant—the largest to date in Germany—for its sunliquid process. The total project has a volume of altogether €28 million (US$36 million)and comprises an investment volume of some €16 million... Read more →


A xylem cell with fluorescent lignocellulose bands as the major feature. Click to enlarge. A team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory led by Michael Thelen, in collaboration with researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, has examined the chemical and structural organization of the plant... Read more →


Integrating cellulosic ethanol production via DHR. Source: Dedini. Click to enlarge. Dedini S/A Indústrias de Base and Novozymes A/S signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) aiming at continuing to develop a technological route to produce cellulosic ethanol in Brazil. The objective of this partnership is to develop a process using... Read more →


BP to Acquire Verenium’s Cellulosic Biofuels Business for $98.3M; Verenium retaining Enzyme Business

BP and Verenium Corporation announced an agreement for BP Biofuels North America to acquire Verenium’s cellulosic biofuels business, including the facilities in Jennings, LA and San Diego, CA, for $98.3 million. Verenium will retain its commercial enzyme business, including its biofuels enzymes products and have the right to develop its... Read more →


EPA Proposes 2011 Percentages for Renewable Fuel Standard

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the 2011 percentage standards for the four fuels categories under the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS2): cellulosic biofuel; biomass-based diesel; advanced biofuel; and renewable fuel. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) established the annual renewable fuel volume targets, reaching... Read more →


NC State Researchers Developing Ozonolysis Pretreatment for Energy Grass Feedstocks

Researchers at North Carolina State University are developing an ozone-based pre-treatment technique (ozonolysis) to release sugars from the energy grass miscanthus for production into renewable fuels or chemicals with minimal generation of chemical waste streams and degradation of the carbohydrate components. Breaking down lignin—the woody, protective material that provides structural... Read more →


Deinococcus radiodurans. Photo credit: M.J. Daly, USUHS, Deinove. Click to enlarge. Deinove, a company specializing in the systematic exploration of the bacterial genus Deinococcus for biofuels and green chemistry, will partner with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Ten senior VTT researchers will team up with Deinove and its French... Read more →


ZeaChem’s process. Click to enlarge. ZeaChem Inc. announced the successful production of ethanol at a capacity that can be scaled to commercial production. ZeaChem currently uses harvested hybrid poplar trees as the feedstock of choice in its combined biochemical and thermochemical process for the production of ethanol. (Earlier post.) A... Read more →


Lifecycle Analysis Finds Cellulosic Ethanol Produced by POET’s Project LIBERTY Will Reduce GHG Emissions 111% Over Gasoline

Cellulosic ethanol produced by grain ethanol producer POET’s Project LIBERTY (earlier post) first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 111% relative to gasoline, an independent lifecycle analysis (LCA) compiled by Air Improvement Resource, Inc., has found. (I.e., the cellulosic ethanol will offset more greenhouse gas... Read more →


Researchers Develop New Strain of Yeast That Can More Efficiently Ferment 5-Carbon Sugars from Lignocellulosic Feedstocks

A team of European researchers has used evolutionary engineering as a complement to rationally-designed genetic engineering to develop a new strain of the industrial yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that can efficiently ferment pentose sugars (xylose and arabinose), as found in lignocellulosic feedstocks. A paper on their work was published 15 June... Read more →


Novozymes and Lignol Partner on Cellulosic Ethanol from Wood

Enzyme-producer Novozymes and cellulosic ethanol company Lignol Energy Corporation signed a research and development agreement to make biofuel from wood chips and other forestry residues. The partners aim to develop a process for making biofuel from forestry waste at a production cost down to $2 per gallon, a price competitive... Read more →


Purdue Researchers Improve Strain of Yeast for Co-Fermentation of 5 Plant Sugars; Improved Yields of Cellulosic Ethanol

Researchers at Purdue University have added the ability to ferment the sugar l-arabinose to a strain of the industrial yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae earlier developed by the team at Purdue that itself offered the ability to ferment xylose. (Earlier post.) The new strain achieved a more than 40% yield in producing... Read more →


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... Read more →


ORNL Gene Discovery Can Lead to More Cost-Competitive Cellulosic Ethanol; Process Demonstrates Approach for Accelerated Industrial Strain Development

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have identified a key gene in the bacterium Zymomomas mobilis—an anaerobic ethanologen—that, when overexpressed in a new Z. mobilis strain, delivers increased tolerance to acetic acid, a common inhibitor produced in biomass pretreatment. Increased tolerance can yield more cost-competitive... Read more →


Nedalco has applied for a patent to protect the technique described schematically in the figure above. The distinction from the more established method is that Xylitol is not an intermediary compound in the route from xylose to xylulose when using Nedalco’s technology. Source: Nedalco. Click to enlarge. Enzyme provider Novozymes... Read more →