Finding Fuel in Agricultural Waste

Joanna Schroeder

The commercialization of cellulosic biofuels is closer than you think. During the DC Auto Show this week, Novozymes and POET are showcasing their successes in bringing cellulosic ethanol to the commercial market. With recent breakthroughs in enzyme technology and advancements in corn stover and cob collection processes this fuel is closer to reality than people realize.

In a regulatory impact analysis, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that, “corn stover was chosen as the most economical agricultural feedstock to be used to produce ethanol in order to meet the 16 billion gallon Energy Independence and Security Act cellulosic biofuel requirement.”  This is one biofuel component of the total 36 billion gallon renewable fuel requirement by 2022 as laid out in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2).

“A large part of our success to date with corn cobs and stover is the improved efficiency of the enzymes used in the fuel production process and the reduced costs of the enzyme production process,” says Novozymes President Adam Monroe. “In just two years, we have been able to reduce our enzyme cost by 80 percent, while at the same time increase performance 1.8 times. Together with partners like POET, we have developed a renewable fuel that is better for our country, better for our environment and cost competitive to gasoline.”

Despite the major technological advancements, Novozymes stresses that there are still barriers to commercialization that include financing, market access and consumer choice for fuel.

Monroe noted that incentives such as grants and loan guarantees to biofuels projects over the past year that fall under the under the Department of Energy and United States Department of Agriculture are a step in the right direction, and they send a clear signal of support for the industry. He concluded that they are necessary tools for keeping renewable fuels like cellulosic biofuels on the road toward full-scale commercialization. In the meantime, Monroe added, the U.S. must not lose focus on what is truly important: American jobs, domestic energy security and environmental preservation.

Cellulosic, Ethanol