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Posted on  

February 9, 2004

Novozymes exceeds final milestone in biomass-to-ethanol project

Reporting a twelve-fold enzyme cost reduction for the conversion of biomass into sugars for fuel ethanol production, Novozymes exceeds the goal of a ten-fold reduction under its US Department of Energy subcontract.

In January 2001, Novozymes was granted USD 14.8 million in a three-year collaborative subcontract with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) using funding from the US Department of Energy to improve enzymes for the conversion of biomass into sugars for production of fuel ethanol and other valuable products. Fuel ethanol is currently produced based on an enzymatic conversion of corn starch and other agricultural products, whereas production based on biomass such as corn leaves and stalks has the potential to become the technology of the future.

During the course of the subcontract, Novozymes used its proprietary biotech research platform to increase enzyme activity and fermentation yield, and to reduce production costs. These improvements have reduced the cost of enzymes required to produce one gallon of biomass-based ethanol by approximately twelve-fold from above 5 US dollars to below 50 US cents per gallon.

Per Falholt, Executive Vice President for R&D; and Chief Science Officer at Novozymes, said: “Exceeding the milestone is an important achievement. We really appreciate the opportunity to work collaboratively with NREL to promote the use of industrial biotechnology for the benefit of society”.

Douglas Kaempf, Program Manager for the Office of Biomass Program at the US Department of Energy, praised Novozymes’ work, saying: “We see reducing the effective cost of enzymes as perhaps the greatest potential improvement in biomass-to-sugar technology, and the progress Novozymes has made in this area is a major step toward making the technology cost-competitive and a basis for bio-refinery industries.”

Glenn Nedwin, President of Novozymes Biotech of Davis, California, where the majority of the work has been carried out, concluded: “This is a key stepping stone towards the utilization of biomass as a viable feedstock for the production of fuel ethanol. As a major recurring expense in biomass-based fuel ethanol production, enzyme cost reduction is critical to the economic viability of the process. We will continue to work on cost-competitive enzymes in an integrated effort with industry and with the backing of the Department of Energy and the collaborative expertise in process integration and economic modelling provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.”


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