Novozymes Touts Enzyme-Catalyzed Biodiesel

novozymesEnzymes could be the key to making biodiesel from low-quality oils. This article from The American Oil Chemists’ Society’s Inform magazine says Novozymes, a biotech company specializing in enzyme technology, is touting biodiesel production at Blue Sun Biodiesel in St. Joseph, Missouri and Vieselfuel LLC in Stuart, Fla., based on using lipase as catalyst.

Production at both sites has been in operation for over a year now. Novozymes has been the enzyme supplier and partner, and the accomplishment of full-scale production is the result of lengthy, dedicated research and development work.

The new lipase technology enables the processing of oil feedstocks with any concentration of free fatty acids and with lower energy costs than with a standard chemical catalyst…

Use of the liquid lipases was a breakthrough, as they are much cheaper to produce and provide technological as well as cost benefits. By using the lipase Novozymes Callera Trans®, it is possible to produce biodiesel from a large variety of oil qualities. The ability to produce biodiesel from feedstock regardless of its FFA content ultimately makes the process a more cost-efficient way to produce biodiesel.

The article goes on to say that Novozymes is finishing up the development of the enzymatic biodiesel application and expects to launch the concept later this year.

The same magazine features another article on using a new proprietary solid catalyst process developed by Benefuel to make biodiesel. We’ll have details on that story tomorrow.

DEINOVE & SUEZ Enter Into Waste to Ethanol Project

DEINOVE has entered into a collaborative agreement with SUEZ ENVIRONMENT Group to explore the potential for developing a new industrial sector for transforming urban organic waste into ethanol through the use of Deinococcus bacteria. The goal of the two-year agreement is to define the optimum conditions for producing ethanol on a per-industrious scale.

Today, organic waste is essentially recycled through composting and methanization. The abundant availability of this source of carbon, its cost and its composition, which is favorable to the growth of microorganisms, make it a realistic candidate for innovative recycling into molecules of industrial interest, including commodities, according to DEINOVE.

Deinoccoccus bacteria“With its amazing capacity for effectively degrading all types of biomass, Deinococcus creates value from waste that is little used today,” said Emmanuel Petiot, CEO of DEINOVE. “In cooperation with SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT, one of the world leaders in processing and recycling waste, we are expanding our potential markets and are contributing to the development of a real circular economy.”

During the past six months, DEINOVE has been working with SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT who has been providing various types of waste coming from its processing units. The results of this upstream research phase have confirmed that these substrates can be transformed into interesting molecules, including ethanol, by Deinococcus bacteria.

As a result of the R&D, the partners have decided to undertake a two-year collaborative extension of their DEINOL programme. The first phase will focus on optimizing the main stages of the process’ development including: choice of substrates supplied by SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT and pretreatment conditions; choice of a Deinococcus strain adapted to these substrates; and the definition of the conditions for fermentative production in order to achieve a satisfactory ethanol production rate in 20-L bioreactors.

Biodiesel Adds Value, Diversification to Ethanol Ops

biodiesel_and_ethanol_fuel_pumps_at_retail_fuel_station_e85__e10_ethanol_b5_b20_biodiesel_mind_J53-1369484It’s not a brand new idea, but the concept of co-locating ethanol and biodiesel plants has been catching on more and more lately. This article from Biodiesel Magazine talks about how ethanol refiners are looking to take their by-product, distillers corn oil (DCO), and turn it into biodiesel to add value to those ethanol plants already on the ground, while diversifying their operations.

“Over the past several years, biodiesel margins have been really strong,” says Ray Baker, general manager for Adkins Energy LLC, a 50 MMgy ethanol refinery in Lena, Ill. Adkins Energy announced last fall that it has contracted with WB Services to install a 2 MMgy biodiesel facility on-site with help from a $500,000 grant from USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program. “But one of the reasons I think we really like the project and the idea behind it,” Baker says, “is that we are already producing a conventional biofuel—corn-based ethanol—and we’ll now be producing an advanced biofuel in biodiesel, and I know in the future we’ll have the opportunity to be producing cellulosic ethanol. So we look at all aspects of the RFS and the growth that’s really built into that, and we see those opportunities.”

In recent years, DCO has emerged as one of the fastest-growing biodiesel feedstocks, and the technologies to effectively convert DCO to biodiesel have been improving. “I think once they got to that point, that helped the technology evolve and the idea behind it become more economical to install into a plant,” he says. “Before, the size of biodiesel plants was much larger, and now I think bolting them onto ethanol technologies on a smaller scale has become economical.”

The article goes on to talk about how better integration of the two fuels’ technologies is making these co-located plants more feasible. In addition, new technologies for brewing biodiesel, especially enzymatic technologies in the pretreatment of the corn oil and replacing the usual biodiesel catalyst methanol with the already available ethanol, are making biodiesel-ethanol operations more likely.

DuPont Claims Win in Ethanol Enzyme Lawsuit

DuPont_logoDuPont is claiming victory in a lawsuit over a patent on an enzyme to help produce ethanol. Ethanol Producer Magazine reports the case between DuPont-owned Danisco and Novozymes has been ordered to be returned to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

A DuPont spokesperson noted that the ruling was a win for Danisco DuPont. DuPont acquired Genencor International, an ethanol enzyme company, in 2011. “A panel of three judges ruled that the trial court should not have dismissed as premature Danisco’s declaratory judgment lawsuit against Novozymes given the two companies’ extensive history of patent litigation and Patent Office disputes involving alpha amylase enzymes (genetically modified industrial enzymes used for converting corn and other plant material into ethanol),” the statement said. “In the lawsuit that is now revived, Danisco sought a declaration that (1) its RSL alpha amylase enzymes did not infringe Novozymes’ ‘573 patent; (2) that the Novozymes ‘573 patent was invalid, and (3) that Danisco’s ‘240 patent had priority over Novozymes’ ‘573 patent.”

Meanwhile, Novozymes officials say they now consider the case closed, and the “decision does not in any way change or limit Novozymes’ product offerings to customers and the decision does not affect Novozymes’ financial outlook.”

Novozymes Joins Advanced Ethanol Council

aeclogoNovozymes has become the newest member of the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC). The global company is best known in the biofuels space for its work on first and second generation enzymes used to improve biofuel production, including cellulosic ethanol.

“Novozymes and the Advanced Ethanol Council share a strong focus on facilitating the commercialization and growth of advanced biofuels,” said Adam Monroe, Americas Regional President at Novozymes. “Advanced biofuel plants are commercializing now and we must continue engaging in policy discussions along with the AEC to ensure the long-term stability and success of advanced renewable fuels.”

Novozymes operates the largest enzyme plant dedicated to biofuels in the United States, located in Blair, Nebraska. The $200 million plant specializes in making world-leading enzymes, a key technology component for both the conventional and advanced biofuel markets.

“We are very pleased to be working with Novozymes,” said Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the AEC. “The cellulosic biofuels industry is breaking through at commercial scale and it is absolutely critical that the industry speak with one voice and stay together when it comes to how we engage on policy and regulatory matters. Novozymes is highly engaged on both the business and political fronts, and we look forward to working with them on strategies that will put the industry in a position to succeed in 2014 and beyond.”

The Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) represents worldwide leaders in the effort to develop and commercialize the next generation of ethanol fuels, ranging from cellulosic ethanol made from dedicated energy crops, forest residues and agricultural waste to advanced ethanol made from municipal solid waste, algae and other feedstocks.

Sugar, Bringing in the New Age of Batteries?

Cutting back on your sugar intake? Than consider using it to create a battery. Not really but doesn’t it sound cool? A Virgina Tech research team did just this and has developed a battery that runs on sugar. The research team believes it has an energy density unmatched by any on the market and could lead to the replacement of conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable and biodegradable.

The findings from Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, were published yesterday in the journal Nature Communications.

sugar batteryWhile other sugar batteries have been developed, Zhang said his has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled. In as soon as three years, his new battery could be running a myriad of electronic gadgets.

“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang said. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

This is one of Zhang’s recent successes that utilize a series of enzymes mixed together in combinations not found in nature. He has published articles on creating edible starch from non-food plants and developed a new way to extract hydrogen in an economical and environmentally friendly way that can be used to power vehicles.

In this newest development, Zhang and his colleagues constructed a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strip all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity in an enzymatic fuel cell. Then, low-cost biocatalyst enzymes are used as catalyst instead of costly platinum, which is typically used in conventional batteries.

Like all fuel cells, the sugar battery combines fuel — in this case, maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made from partial hydrolysis of starch — with air to generate electricity and water as the main byproducts.

Zang explained, “We are releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly step-by-step by using an enzyme cascade.”

Different from hydrogen fuel cells and direct methanol fuel cells, the fuel sugar solution is neither explosive nor flammable and has a higher energy storage density. The enzymes and fuels used to build the device are also biodegradable.

Fast-Eating Enzymes Lunch on Cellulose

A microorganism first found in the Valley of Geysers on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia in 1990 may be a key to more efficient cellulosic biofuel production. The microoorganism can digest cellulose almost twice as fast as the current leading component cellulase enzyme on the market according to researchers at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The researches have discovered if the enzyme continues to perform well in larger tests, it could help drive down the price of making lignocellulosic fuels, from ethanol to other biofuels that can be dropped into existing infrastructure. A paper reporting this finding, “Revealing Nature’s Cellulase Diversity: The Digestion Mechanism of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii CelA” appears in the journal Science.

The bacterium first found in heated freshwater pools, Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, secretes the cellulase, CelA, which has the complex arrangement of two catalytic domains Caldicellulosiruptor besciiseparated by linker peptides and cellulose binding modules.

NREL researchers put CelA to the test and found that it produced more sugars than the most abundant cellulase in the leading commercial mixtures, Cel7A, when acting on Avicel, which is an industry standard to test cellulose degradation. They found that CelA not only can digest cellulose in the more common surface removal, but that it also creates cavities in the material, which leads to greater synergy with more conventional cellulases, resulting in higher sugar release.

The bacteria that secrete the promising CelA thrive in temperatures of 75 to 90 degrees Celsius (167-194 degrees Farenheit). NREL Scientist Yannick Bomble, one of the paper’s authors, noted “Microorganisms and cellulases operating at such high temperatures have several biotechnological advantages.”

“CelA is the most efficient single cellulase we’ve ever studied – by a large margin,” Bomble continued. “It is an amazingly complex enzyme, combining two catalytic domains with three binding modules. The fact that it has two complementary catalytic domains working in concert most likely makes it such a good cellulose degrader.” Continue reading

Cellic Ctec Enzyme Featured in Cellulosic Plant

It was only a few weeks ago that one of the largest, if not the largest commercial scale advanced biofuel facility in the world using enzymatic technology marked the official opening in Crescentino, Italy. The project partners included global companies Beta Renewables and Novozymes.

Crescentino Fast FactsThe biorefinery features Novozymes Cellic® CTec enzymes, a technology developed and refined specifically for the cellulosic ethanol industry. The multi-feedstock facility uses wheat straw, rice straw and arundo donax to produce ethanol.

To learn more about Cellic and how the enzyme technology was refined for this project, I spoke with Jason Blake, Director, Biomass Conversion with Novozymes who explained that the genesis for the project began several years back. The relationship with Beta Renewables was one of collaboration that began in the lab and in the pilot facility in looking at making a commercially viable project for Beta Renewables.

Through the efforts the team has been looking at technologies and developments to optimize the process technology and optimize the enzyme technology to help them become a commercially viable player in the market. In addition, with co-marketing plans in place, the two companies plan on bringing the technologies to market to help the advanced biofuels industry grow.

So why are enzymes so important in the ethanol production process? “Enzymes are unique in the process. They play a part not just in the hydrolysis piece they can unlock opportunities along the process technology value chain, explained Blake.”

Enzymes, he explained have been able to reduce the cost of capital at the front end. “Through the development of the enzymes and increasing the performance, we’re able to reduce the enzyme dosage and reduce the hydrolysis time and increase the sugar conversions which thereby open up opportunities to invest money in other areas,” he said.

Blake also explained that the enzyme technology is optimized for each plant’s technology and feedstock allowing the company’s research and development to extend well into the future of the industry.

For more information about the collaboration between Novozymes and Beta Renewables and to learn more about the philosophy and research and development efforts of Novozymes, listen to my in-depth interview with Jason Blake. Novozymes Cellic Ctec Enzyme Featured in Cellulosic Plant

Avantec Bringing Ethanol Producers Results

According to Niels Miles Frandsen, Marketing Director, Biofuel, with global biocompany Novozymes, their company’s enzyme Avantec is now used to produce over 20 percent of the U.S. corn ethanol after only being on the market for just over one year. He said that both Avantec, that was released in October of 2012 and Spirazyme Achieve that was released in June of 2013, and now has 10 percent of the market, are doing better than they even hoped.

corn field near ethanol plant“Right now ethanol producers are running really tight operations and are constantly looking for ways to improve their production,” said Frandsen. “This technology we have today called Avantec and Spirazyme Achieve actually allows customers to save a lot of corn and still produce the same amount of ethanol.”

Avantec is used in the first part of the production process called liquefaction; whereas Achieve is used in the subsequent process called Saccharification Fermentation. While the two enzymes can work independently of each other, Frandsen said when used together, the enzymes enable producers to squeeze more ethanol out of the corn while saving on energy and chemicals, improving profit margins and efficiency, and reducing their environmental footprint.

When the enzymes are paired together along with Olexa, Frandsen said they are seeing ethanol yield increases of up to 5 percent and corn oil extraction increases by to 13 percent, while saving 8 percent energy. “And all of these things together are big drivers for ethanol producers in the market today.”

To look the savings another way, a typical U.S. ethanol plant uses around 900,000 tons of feed-grade corn per year to produce 100 million gallons of fuel ethanol, 300,000 tons of animal feed and 8,500 tons of corn oil. With Avantec and Spirizyme Achieve, such a plant can either save 36,000 tons of corn while maintaining the same ethanol output or produce an additional 4 million gallons of ethanol without increasing input costs. Either way, profits improve substantially.

Frandsen also gives ethanol producers tips on how to transition their plants to the next generation enzyme technologies.

Learn more about Avantec and Spirazyme Achieve in my interview with Niels Miles Frandsen. Avantec Bringing Ethanol Producers Results