Skip to comments.New Enzyme Could Cut Cost of Ethanol Made From Waste
Posted on 02/22/2012 9:56:04 PM PST by neverdem
It is one of the holy grails of clean energy production: finding a way to make ethanol from the cellulose in biowaste like corn husks and household trash. Although several pilot projects are up and running with many more in the pipeline commercial production has remained elusive, with the costs remaining much higher than for producing ethanol from corn, or gasoline.
But in what may come as welcome news to oil companies that are paying penalties for failing to use cellulosic ethanol a biofuel that, commercially speaking, does not yet exist a big producer of industrial enzymes has developed an enzyme...
To make cellulosic fuel, biomass wheat straw, wood chips, cornstalks, household waste or nonfood crops like switchgrass are broken down into a pulp, then mixed with enzymes to produce sugar. That is then fermented with yeast to become a liquid fuel that burns cleaner than petroleum-based gasoline.
This is about bringing down the cost, said Peder Holk Nielsen, executive vice president at Novozymes. With corn and sugar-cane ethanol, you have a very expensive raw material and a simple process, he said. The making of cellulosic ethanol, on the other hand, uses a very inexpensive raw material that is expensive to transform into fuel.
The company, which is locked in an enzymatic arms race with DuPonts Genencor unit, says the new enzyme is more potent than its predecessor and competing products. Cellulosic ethanol makers have in the past needed large quantities of enzymes to make the fuel, so a significant cut in the amount needed would drive down costs. Mr. Nielsen said the new product could help bring the cost of cellulosic ethanol down to $2 to $2.50 a gallon, in line with gasoline and corn ethanol. It makes it manageable, he said...
(Excerpt) Read more at green.blogs.nytimes.com ...
mmmm, ethanol. I gotta find some of this enzyme.
It will take more than enzymes>
Amen. Stop the subsidies and let all fuels and energy production methods stand or fall on their own merits.
Theoretically, ethanol could have a bright future. All of the fundamental technology is well-known. Mother nature uses photosynthesis to store solar energy as cellulose. People use fermentation to recover it as fuel. (People have been doing this for a long time. After all, making alcohol is mankind's second oldest profession.) Suitable feedstocks are abundant and can grow on land not suitable for food production. And, to keep the Greenies happy, it is clean and completely carbon neutral. What's not to like about it?
What they need to figure out is how to reproduce the process the yeast organism uses to convert the sugar to ethanol.
What;s wrong with converting cellulose to methanol, a process somewhat simpler than going for ethanol. I used to own a Dodge Spirit which was ready to run on a mixture of gasoline and methanol, so the tech is no more unusual than the gas/ethanol mix we use now.
Ethanol is already made from waste...government waste.
Eliminate the subsidies and see if it floats by itself.
DOA when natural gas is used to fuel vehicles.
Run a pipe out of the WH and Congress.... problem solved.
Cellulose IS a sugar to begin with. Termites have the enzymes to digest cellulose. What’s the big deal?
It will still be more expensive than simply using petroleum; and that means subsidies; and subsidies mean more taxes on all of us to pay for these lame-brain liberal feel-good schemes.
The oil in the ground is free like the breeze and the sun. Sounds like a lot of work to make fuel.
The process likely won't use plant "waste" like stalks, but the paper/cellulose fraction of urban waste, of which megatons circulate daily, so transport from field to a central location is already covered (i.e. raw material to factory to consumer to "garbage collection" to central location).
This enzyme apparently attacks only the cellulose fraction, so there will be some "residue". Probability is high that that residue will be a high-quality plant food. AT WORST, the carbon content in it can be burned to help drive the process.
Perhaps those enzymes don't work well other than in "termite guts", or are simply too inefficient on a large scale.
The cellulose in urban waste would be primarily paper and right now scrap paper sells for? $125/ton? So could a ton of paper produce $125 of alcohol? Divert paper to fuel and the price will surely rise for the feedstock.
Right now the organic waste of cities could be converted into fuel, some place it is I suppose, with proved methods.
More efficient ways to use waste and produce alcohol are always good but I don’t see alcohol as new fuel.
A great line. Your's?
what subsidies would those be?