Hungry Enzymes May Lead to Biofuels Price Revolution

Advances in reducing the cost of producing biofuels have been announced by Genencor International, Inc.

PALO ALTO, California, US, 2001-10-22 [] The California company says it has achieved its first technical milestone in a three-year contract with the Department of Energy Biofuels Program administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Genencor says it has developed and validated processes for improved cellulose enzymes that meet the intended objective at one-half the cost of currently available technologies. “Advances in molecular biology and functional genomics enable us to push the frontiers of commercial development,” says vice president Michael Arbige. The goal of the program is to develop new enzyme systems for the economic conversion of plant matter (biomass) into fuel ethanol and other valuable materials. DOE says the cost of converting biomass into useable form is a critical stumbling block to producing biofuels and chemicals from renewable raw materials. An economic source of renewable carbon is a critical factor to allow the development of ‘biorefineries’ to take their place along traditional oil refineries, and the development of biorefineries should create new markets for bioproducts, with benefits for consumers, farmers and the environment. Genencor and NREL are working to deliver enzyme systems enabling a ten-fold improvement in the economics of breaking down cellulose material or plant matter and other complex carbohydrates into fermentable sugars. These sugars are the raw materials necessary for further refining into ethanol, organic chemicals and other bioproducts like plastics.
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