German-based Butalco has announced that it will begin producing biofuel from agricultural waste this summer using its proprietary new yeast technology. The pilot plant is located in Southern Germany and the company’s new microbial catalysts will enable up to a 30 percent increase in yields during cellulosic ethanol production.
As explained by the company, cellulosic biomass, like plant waste materials, contains different types of sugars like glucose (C6) and pentoses (C5). Traditionally, yeasts are used in bioethanol production as they can efficiently ferment glucose into ethanol, but they are unable to digest the C5 sugars. Companies such as Butalco are looking at enzymes to break the plant biomass into C5/C6 sugar mixtures.
Eckhard Boles, co-founder of Butalco, said in a press statement, “Our new technology now tells the yeast cells to also ferment the C5 waste sugars into ethanol which makes the production of cellulosic ethanol much more efficient and cheaper. Together with the new commercially viable enzymes launched last week by the enzyme companies Danisco and Novozymes, Butalco’s yeast technology will enable cellulosic ethanol as a competitive alternative to gasoline.”
The company will use Hohenheim University’s (Stuttgart, Germany) newly built pilot plant for the production of its first amounts of cellulosic ethanol. Last year, Butalco signed a research and development contract with the Institute of Fermentation Technology within the Department of Food Science and Biotechnology at Hohenheim University. The institute has been concerned with questions on the production of bioethanol for almost 30 years. The plant is able to convert both starch and lignocellulosic based raw materials into ethanol.