Qteros, formerly Sun Ethanol, recently announced that it has broken the barrier of ethanol production from cellulosic biomass feedstocks such as corn stover, sugarcane and woody biomass. As most biofuels companies report the production of 50 grams of ethanol per liter, Qteros says it is now producing 70 grams of ethanol per liter or approximately 100 gallons per ton.
The company’s proprietary microbe, the Q Microbe is reported to achieve this breakthrough production number. It is achieved through one step on industrially pretreated cellulosic biomass feedstocks, such as woody biomass. This technology makes cellulosic ethanol production the most economical to date and it uses less water than current ethanol production.
During a presentation at the World Congress on Industrial Biotechnolgy and Bioprocesssing last week in Montreal, Canada, Susan Leschine a microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts said of the discovery, “We knew from the beginning that the Q Microbe was an extraordinary microorganism. These results confirm what we predicted: Qteros and the Q Microbe can make cellulosic ethanol a commercial reality.”
Jef Sharp, Executive VP was quoted in a USA Today article about the breakthrough, “According to a DOE report, there are over a billion tons of plant biomass available every year for this purpose. Qteros will not need fossil fuel inputs for fertilizer or distillation of the ethanol because the lignin portion of the plant material (about 1/3 of most plants) will be burned to generate the heat necessary to refine the ethanol. There will also be leftover green electricity created.”
Although this announcement is monumental by past comparisons, Qteros has only just begun. The company expects to make additional improvements to the process of taking advantage of ongoing efforts in molecular genetics and strain development. That’s a whole lost of science to say that the company is still in search of producing an even better biofuel.