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Posted on  

April 28, 2004

Novozymes and NREL report further progress in biomass-to-ethanol project

Combining technology developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Novozymes, the enzyme costs of converting cellulosic biomass into sugars for fuel ethanol production have now been reduced approximately twenty-fold.

Furthermore, Novozymes has been granted a one-year extension to its collaborative subcontract with NREL and will receive USD 2.3 million in research funding.

In January 2001, using funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE), NREL and Novozymes entered into a USD 14.8 million three-year collaborative research subcontract. During the course of the contract, Novozymes applied its proprietary biotech research platform to increase enzyme activity and fermentation yield, and to reduce production costs for enzymes used to convert cellulosic biomass into sugars for production of fuel ethanol and other valuable products. Fuel ethanol is currently produced based on enzyme-driven conversion of corn starch and other agricultural products, whereas production based on cellulosic biomass such as corn leaves and stalks has the potential to augment the feedstocks in the existing industry and become the technology of the future for fuel ethanol production. In February 2004, Novozymes reported a twelve-fold enzyme cost reduction exceeding the ten-fold goal.

Based on the latest achievements of NREL in the pre-treatment of cellulosic biomass materials and combining the improved treatment process with the advances already made in enzyme technology by Novozymes, the two partners have now been able to reduce the costs of the enzyme part of the biomass-to-ethanol conversion from above 5 US dollars to below 30 US cents per gallon of ethanol.

Douglas Kaempf, Program Manager for the Office of Biomass Program at the US Department of Energy, stated, "Combining Novozymes' advances in enzyme technology with the advances made by NREL in the pre-treatment of corn stover, we have gained important synergies between performance and costs. This achievement was possible through the strong partnership between Novozymes and DOE. The Department looks forward to the continued reduction in enzyme costs obtainable from the extended support of this research team."



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