DOE Invests $33.8M in Four Cellulosic Ethanol Companies

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week that it will invest up to $33.8 million, over four years, for four projects that will focus on developing improved enzyme systems to convert cellulosic material into sugars suitable for production of biofuels.

Combined with industry cost share, up to $70 million will be invested in these projects, with a minimum 50% cost share from industry.

Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner saide, "Success of these projects will play a pivotal role in the rapid development and deployment of renewable fuels to reduce emissions and dependence on foreign oil, and fundamentally change how we power our vehicles,"

These four projects seek to more cost-effectively and efficiently breakdown processed biomass into fermentable sugars, a significant challenge in converting biomass into fuels. Projects were selected based on their demonstrated ability to reduce the cost of enzymes-per-gallon of ethanol by improving an enzyme’s performance. Selected projects must demonstrate the ability to produce enzymes at a commercial-scale, and have a sound business strategy to market the enzymes or enzyme production systems in biorefinery operations.

Negotiations between the selected companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels. Funding is subject to appropriations from Congress.

Selected projects include:

DSM Innovation Center Inc. (Parsippany, NJ): Development of a Commercial Enzymes System for Lignocellulosic Biomass Saccharification. This project will employ DSM’s internal, proprietary fungal systems to develop new approaches to improve enzymes for the conversion of pre-treated lignocellulosic biomass into sugars suitable for fermentation into cellulosic ethanol. Team Members: Abengoa Bioenergy New Technologies (Nebraska); and DOE’s Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories (New Mexico).

Genencor – a Division of Danisco, USA, Inc. (Palo Alto, CA): Enhancing Cellulase Commercial Performance for the Lignocellulosic Biomass Industry. This project plans to reduce the enzyme-dose level required for biomass saccharification by improving the specific performance of the Trichoderma Reesei mix of fungal-based cellulases to facilitate production of cellulosic ethanol from sugars produced by the saccharification process. Team Members: DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Colorado)

Novozymes, Inc. (Davis, CA): Project Decrease – Development of a Commercial-Ready Enzyme Application System for Ethanol. This project aims to improve performance of Novozymes’ most advanced enzyme system by decreasing the dosage of enzyme required to hydrolyze biomass into fermentable sugars suitable for cellulosic ethanol production. Team Members: Novozymes North America (North Carolina); Novozymes A/S (Denmark); Novozymes (China) Investment Co. Ltd; DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Washington) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Colorado); the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique University (France); and Cornell University (New York).

Verenium Corporation (San Diego, CA): Commercialization of Customized Cellulase Solutions for Biomass Saccharification. This project will leverage Verenium’s advanced enzyme development capabilities to commercialize a cellulase enzyme system to produce a more cost-effective enzyme solution for biomass saccharification processes that will also tolerate conditions that enable more efficient process economics in producing ethanol from cellulosics.

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