The good news: After developing the technology, improving enzymes and yield and building demonstration plants, it is finally getting serious. The building of the first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant has begun.
Novozymes partner Mossi & Ghisolfi Group (M&G) started construction of the world’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant. The plant will produce 13 million gallons of ethanol per year from biomass. The price of the ethanol will be competitive with gasoline. This facility will be 10 times larger than the largest demonstration facilities in operation today and is designed to operate on a multitude of cellulosic feedstocks. It is scheduled to start production in 2012.
Cellulosic ethanol is produced from biomass such as wheat straw, corn stover, municipal waste, or energy crops, which is first broken down into a pulp. Enzymes are then added, turning cellulose in the biomass into sugar which can be fermented into ethanol. Novozymes, the world’s largest producer of industrial enzymes, has collaborated closely with M&G for the last couple of years and will supply the enzymes for the plant.
M&G’s plant in Crescentino is claimed to be self-sufficient in power. Lignin, a co-product extracted from biomass during the ethanol production process, is burned in an attached power plant that also feeds excess electricity back to the grid.
Finally, a brief insight into how agricultural waste can be turned into transportation fuel – provided by Novozymes: