Manufacturer Reaches Bioethanol Milestone

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has approved the third year of funding for Novozymes’ three-year subcontract to develop more cost-efficient enzymes for ethanol production.

Bagsvaerd, Denmark – February 11, 2003 [] The continued funding is based on Novozymes’ achievement of the second year technical milestones. In the second year, Novozymes has optimized enzyme expression and efficiency, achieving the milestones for the end of year two of the subcontract. The DOE subcontract has a goal of reducing the cost of enzymes for bioethanol production 10-fold. “The primary strategy of the biomass program,” said David Garman, assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, “is to develop and deploy technologies for the creation of a new Biorefinery Industry to produce fuels and chemicals. The Novozymes partnership will deliver key enzymes systems to enable the new Biorefinery industry to expand and provide the opportunity for broader uses of Renewable Energy.” One of the applications of bioethanol is replacement of the hazardous gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). Several US states either have phased out or are planning to phase out the use of MTBE as oxygenate in vehicle gasoline. In California alone, replacement of MTBE this year is projected to require 530 million gallons of ethanol, more than one-quarter of the two billion gallons of ethanol produced in the US in 2002. According to the company, Novozymes is currently the market leader in supplying enzymes for converting starch, mainly from corn, into fermentable sugars and hopes that new enzymes discovered during the research subcontract with the DOE can be turned into new products to bolster its market presence. The US fuel ethanol market is growing at a rapid rate of around 20 percent annually. In January 2001, the DOE granted funds of up to US$14.8 million in a research subcontract with Novozymes Biotech, Inc., the US-based research subsidiary of Novozymes A/S. The research project is aimed at reducing the cost of cellulase enzymes used in converting plant waste material (biomass) into fermentable sugars such as glucose which can then be converted to ethanol by fermentation. The DOE’s Office of Biomass Programs seeks to cost-effectively produce ethanol and other fuels from biomass resources such as agricultural and forestry residues, etc. This effort is made in close cooperation with industry and carried out primarily by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, USA, a national laboratory of the DOE.
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