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Home » Business News/Analysis, Energy, Federal Agency, Pretreatment, Process, R & D Focus

Ending the Enzyme Enigma

Submitted by on May 19, 2011 – 12:12 pmNo Comment

by Kris Bevill (Ethanol Producer Magazine)   Figuring out how to produce enzymes at a feasible cost is just part of the puzzle

A decade ago, the cost of enzymes was at the top of the list of concerns for most would-be cellulosic ethanol producers. With some estimates placing them at around $5 per gallon of ethanol produced, enzyme costs were higher than the cost of feedstock in some cases, making cost-effective production nearly impossible to achieve. But after hundreds of millions of dollars spent on collaborative research and development efforts that crisscrossed the globe, enzyme costs have been dramatically reduced and are now being proven for commercial-scale use. There is still work to be done, but developers say they are continuously improving their enzyme systems and, with the help of producers, are ready to launch the cellulosic ethanol industry into full-speed commercialization mode.

…Novozymes has been working for years to develop cost-effective enzymes for the ethanol industry. Its most recent development in this arena has been its trademarked Cellic CTec 2 enzymes, …

Genencor, a division of Danisco, has been investing heavily in cellulosic ethanol enzyme development since 2000, according to the company’s business development director, Aaron Kelley, and has been aggressively launching new enzyme packages for the industry since 2007 when it introduced its Accellerase line of cellulose enzymes.

…Verenium continues its research and development of enzymes for cellulosic ethanol production. Royal DSM, a Netherlands-based life sciences and materials company is also involved in a multiyear enzyme development project for the cellulosic ethanol industry.

Mark Emalfarb, president and CEO of Florida-based Dyadic International, believes smaller firms like his offer a unique ability to service the cellulosic ethanol industry. His company has been developing enzymes to produce sugars from biomass for years …

At What Cost?   … Genencor alone has invested more than $100 million in its development projects. Emalfarb says his company has raised $70 million since going public. The U.S. federal government is also heavily invested in this arena. Andy Aden, a senior research engineer at the U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory says the DOE has invested more than $1 billion in more than 20 integrated biorefinery projects in the past decade and has provided multiple grants to many of the enzyme manufacturers.

…Pretreatment methods and costs are directly related to enzyme costs and, therefore, reducing enzyme costs requires extensive collaboration between ethanol producer and enzyme producer.

…(S)tarch ethanol uses two or three enzymes and requires various enzyme activities to digest the starch. “In the cellulose process you’ve probably got at least eight different families and multiple enzymes in each of those families of activities,” he says. “And all of those activities need to work together to get to your optimum yield and conversion.” READ MORE

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