Novozymes on track with new enzymes for cellulosic ethanol

Novozymes has cut cellulosic ethanol enzyme costs by more than half and is on track to deliver the first commercially viable enzymes by 2010 – an important step on the way to enabling the commercial success of cellulosic ethanol.

At the National Ethanol Conference in San Antonio in Texas today, Executive Vice President Peder Holk Nielsen presents the progress achieved by Novozymes’ latest second-generation enzyme products. This new enzyme family is the highest performing and most cost-effective enzyme solution available today.

Commenting, Peder Holk Nielsen says, “Novozymes has dedicated an unprecedented number of R&D resources focused on enzyme development for cellulosic ethanol. To date, our efforts have successfully reduced the cost of enzymes in many of our partners’ processes by 50%. The results we're achieving in our labs for our next generation of enzymes make us confident that we'll deliver a commercially viable enzyme product to the ethanol industry by 2010 through an additional 50% reduction in enzyme use cost”.

“After thorough testing by our partners in their processes, it's clear that our latest enzyme product family has the best absolute performance and cost/performance ratio in the industry to date. We're breaking through the technical and cost-related barriers with our enzyme technology; due to the success of these trials, Novozymes is now making the product more broadly available in order to help enable further development of cellulosic ethanol.”

Second-generation cellulosic ethanol uses enzymes to break down cellulosic waste materials such as corn stover, sugarcane bagasse, and wood chips into sugars that can be fermented into ethanol. Novozymes’ newest enzyme product family has proven to work on many different feedstock types.

“The technology is getting closer and we're confident that together with key partners we'll soon achieve cellulosic ethanol commercial success. The goal for cellulosic ethanol is to be on par with corn-based ethanol on a cost basis, which we think is feasible within a few years. The cost of cellulosic ethanol production will go down as we and our partners go up the learning curve,” Peder Holk Nielsen adds.

Technology ready – Implementation needed
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires the US to blend 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol into gasoline in 2010.

“The technology is at a critical point in development, and a wave of US cellulosic plants are ready to be built. However, besides financial aid, the ethanol industry needs strong government support to remove barriers for expanded ethanol use and continued support for the existing RFS volume mandates, which Congress set in the energy law of 2007,” Peder Holk Nielsen explains.

Cellulosic ethanol will continue the greenhouse gas savings trend traditional corn-based ethanol has started with an expected reduction in CO2 emissions of up to 90% compared with oil-based fuels. Due to the RFS the US will prevent 200 million tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere every year from 2022 onwards – just by replacing gasoline with ethanol.