Danish biotech firms' enzymes could make biofuel cheaper than gasoline

Two Danish biotechfirms have announced competing enzymes that could reduce the price of cellulosic ethanol to less than that of gasoline.

Two Danish biotechfirms have announced competing enzymes that could reduce the price of cellulosic ethanol to less than that of gasoline.

Genencor announced its new enzyme, Accellerase Duet, on Monday at the 15th Annual National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Fla. Just 24 hours later, rival Novozymes announced its own enzyme for the same purpose, called Cellic CTec2.

All biomass contains cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin, the former two of which can be broken down into simple sugars which can then be fermented into ethanol. Until now, enzymes that could achieve this task were too costly to implement at the scale needed for production.

Genencor claims its new enzyme results in higher yields with one-third the dose typically needed. Novozymes claims its enzyme reduces current production costs by 80 percent in the last two years to just $0.50 per gallon, a milestone price for the industry. With the enzyme about 25 percent of the total cost of producing cellulosic ethanol, that means the total cost is nearly on par with gasoline.

Neither company is a fuel producer outright, but both companies' commercial enzymes are important steps toward their stated target of approximately $0.20 to $0.25 per gallon, achievable at scale.

Will biofuels achieve significance in the alternative fuels arms race? The U.S. government has committed to increasing the amount of advanced biofuels in the nation's fuel supply to 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2022.

At the prices listed above, that forecasts a market worth billions.

[via GreenTechMedia]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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