Genencor International, Inc. (Nasdaq:GCOR), and U.S. government representatives gathered at Genencor’s Palo Alto headquarters today to celebrate their progress in the quest to convert biomass to ethanol and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Genencor scientists and colleagues from the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) acknowledged the significance of the completion of their 4-year collaboration to reduce the costs of enzymes to enable a commercially viable process of using cellulosic biomass (such as agricultural waste) to make ethanol, which can currently be made from sugar cane and starchy grains.
Genencor also announced that it has achieved an estimated cellulase cost in the range of $0.10-$0.20 per gallon of ethanol in NREL’s cost model. This represents an approximate 30-fold improvement in enzyme cost in that model. NREL is expected to validate these results at pilot scale within the next quarter. Genencor noted that the actual enzyme cost and the final cost of ethanol in a commercial process will be heavily dependent upon overcoming the remaining hurdles in the development of integrated biorefineries.
“We have exceeded the contractual goals and the expectations of the DOE and NREL,” said Michael V. Arbige, Genencor’s senior vice president of technology. “But more importantly, we have overcome a critical hurdle in making biorefineries and alternative fuels a reality.”
The technology developed is an important step toward realizing the potential of biorefineries, analogous to an oil refinery today, in which plant and waste materials are used to produce an array of fuels and chemicals. Further progress toward a commercially viable biorefinery depends on the development of pilot-scale, real-world processes for biomass conversion. Genencor is working with Cargill-Dow on such a project, also funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), and looks forward to working with others as biorefinery development advances toward industrial scale.
Earlier this month, this work was acknowledged by R&D magazine as one of the Top 100 Technologically Significant Products for 2004, in a joint award to Genencor, NREL and Novozymes Biotech.
Genencor International is a diversified biotechnology company that develops and delivers innovative products and services into the health care, agri-processing, industrial and consumer markets. Using an integrated set of technology platforms, Genencor’s products deliver innovative and sustainable solutions to improve the quality of life. Genencor traces its history to 1982 and has grown to become a leading biotechnology company, with over $380 million in year 2003 annual revenues. Genencor has principal offices in Palo Alto, California; Rochester, New York; and Leiden, the Netherlands.
Source: Genencor Press Release October 21, 2004.