Genencor joins cellulosic ethanol study

By EPM Staff Writer Holly Jessen | May 01, 2006
Genencor International announced May 1 that it would be part of a research consortium to develop ethanol production from paper pulp. The group will study the technical and economic results of a small pilot cellulose-to-ethanol plant at a pulp mill located in France, according to Jack Huttner, Genencor's vice president of commercial development for biorefineries.

"This is an excellent project to establish the viability of an advanced cellulosic biorefinery for ethanol projection," Huttner told EPM.

The three-year study will have a special focus on waste minimization of the milling process. Utilizing waste from the paper pulping process "overcomes two fundamental stumbling blocks" to cellulosic ethanol production: storage and pretreatment of feedstocks, Huttner said. In this case, the waste products are already collected and pretreated, making them readily available for ethanol production.

Currently, waste material from paper mills is burned to produce electricity and steam. One of the questions the study seeks to answer is whether making ethanol would result in higher economic value for the paper industry. "That's the challenge of this project," Huttner said, adding that the material would lose a portion of its thermal value but could still be used to generate power.

Theoretically, the project should yield 100 gallons of ethanol per dry ton of feedstock. "I think it will be a nice side-stream business for the paper industry," Huttner said.

The €1.2 million project is sponsored by the French National Research Program for Bioenergy, which is providing 50 percent of the funding. Besides Genencor, other partners in the project are Tembec Research and Development Kraft, INSA Toulouse's Laboratory for Biotechnology and Bioprocessing, and the University of Bordeaux's Pine Institute.

The research team will work together to develop an engineering design and process perimeters for the pilot plant facility. Specifically, Genencor, an industrial biotechnology company that develops enzymes and bioproducts, will optimize an enzyme "cocktail" tailored to breaking down the paper pulp, according to Huttner. Other partners will analyze the economics to evaluate the system for commercial application and provide expertise in the fermentation, pulping and lignocellulose analysis and characterization.

Genencor is a subsidiary of Danisco A/S. For more information, visit www.genencor.com.