The Dernogalizer

February 17, 2010

Economics Improve for First Commercial Cellulosic Ethanol Plants

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:29 pm
Tags: ,

This struck me as a noteworthy development in the ethanol arena.  From Jessica Leber of ClimateWire, which can be found here.  Excerpts below.

“Many cellulosic fuel producers are working with enzymes to break down tough, inedible plant parts, such as corncobs or switch grass, into simpler sugars that can be fermented to ethanol. Now enzyme companies say they are near to breaking down another tough obstacle: the cost of enzymes that will make the next generation of low-carbon fuels.”

“Novozymes, the world’s largest industrial enzyme producer, today launched a new line it says will yield ethanol from plant wastes at an enzyme price of about 50 cents a gallon. The latest product of a decade of research, this marks an 80 percent price drop from two years ago, according to Global Marketing Director Poul Ruben Andersen.

The advances, Andersen said, will help bring cellulosic ethanol production prices to under $2 a gallon by 2011, a cost on par with both corn-based ethanol and gasoline at current U.S. market prices.”

“That capacity, though nearer than ever, has long been a future prospect. Next year, the nation’s first commercial-sized plants are expected to open their doors. Among the climate benefits experts see are that the use of corn stover and other waste products rather than corn will cut the need for fertilizer, plowing and other greenhouse gas-producing steps currently used to make ethanol.”

“Genencor’s Lavielle cautioned that the 50-cent-per-gallon estimate for the cost of cellulosic ethanol is closely tied to the particulars and efficiencies of the production process. He said that, over the next several years, the company hopes to halve the enzyme costs again, to 20 or 30 cents a gallon of fuel.

Doing that, said Lavielle, will require larger production scales. Both Novozymes and Genencor have plans to ramp up their enzyme production in the next several years as cellulosic producers grow their demand. “I can assure you that the enzymes will not cost the same from one plant to another for quite a long time, until all these processes have shaken out,” Lavielle said.”

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