Biotech firm launches new fuel enzyme

Feb 16, 2010
An employee fills the tank of a car with hydrous ethanol in 2009 in Colombia. A Danish biotechnology company on Tuesday launched a new enzyme which it said will make it possible to turn agricultural waste into biofuel at a competitive price.

A Danish biotechnology company on Tuesday launched a new enzyme which it said will make it possible to turn agricultural waste into biofuel at a competitive price.

The breakthrough will allow the industry to produce cellulosic for less than two US dollars per gallon (around 37 euro cents per litre), Novozymes said in a statement.

This cost would put the fuel on a par with petrol and conventional ethanol, the company said.

Novozymes said the new enzyme, known as Cellic CTec2, breaks down cellulose in into sugars that can be fermented into ethanol, and could convert corn cobs and stalks, wheat straw and woodchips into fuel.

"We have been working on this for the past 10 years and promised our customers and the market to be ready by 2010," Novozymes' chief executive Steen Riisgaard said in a statement.

Riisgaard said he expected cellulosic ethanol to become even cheaper over time.

"Our partners expect production costs to fall below two dollars per gallon once their first commercial-scale plants are fully operational, and the cost will continue to drop in the future," he said in the statement.

Tuesday's announcement prompted Novozymes' share price to rise 4.8 percent on the Danish stock market, to stand at 567 Danish kroner (76.2 euros, 104 dollars).

Novozymes said the new enzyme was developed with the help of 29.3 million dollars from the US Department of Energy.

Large-scale commercial production of cellulosic ethanol is scheduled to start in 2011, and the company said the industry could create 1.2 million jobs in the United States alone by 2022.

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robbor
3 / 5 (2) Feb 16, 2010
Danish firm - 29 million dollars from US Department of Energy?
MasterMind1776
5 / 5 (2) Feb 16, 2010
While this is a milestone, ethanol from the pump to power vehicles will need to be around 1/2 the price of conventional gasoline to truly be competitive after lower energy content and other production factors for ethanol are factored in.
rgw
3 / 5 (2) Feb 17, 2010
Fortunately we will be hauling around billions of tons of bulky, waste greenery with propellentless antigravity devices.
winthrom
4.5 / 5 (2) Feb 17, 2010
I agree with Mastermind1776. Ethanol is not a high energy density fuel. Converting ethanol to higher density fuels adds more cost, but provides better compatibility with a very large portion of the internal combustion engine/fuel systems currently in use throughout the world. Also: Since the bio-reactor is not defined as "continuous flow", I believe that batch processing is a cost add-in to the Novozyme cost model. Solve these problems, and the result will be a practical fuel supply. The ideal fuel stock would be a diesel fuel for trucks. a kerosene fuel for jet aircraft, and a gasoline fuel for just about everything else. Convert ethanol to these fuels and the fact that the US gave money to a Danish firm is a national security success.
david_42
not rated yet Feb 17, 2010
The US already has excess ethanol capacity. Most vehicles cannot run on gasoline with more than 10% alcohol, so switching to E15 or higher isn't an option. Numerous ethanol plants are being closed down due to lack of demand.