ABF, Mascoma to develop cellulosic ethanol

By Timothy Charles Holmseth | July 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted July 11, 2008 at 11:05 a.m. CST

Associate British Foods, a London company, has announced a strategic collaboration with Massachusetts-based Mascoma Corp. to develop advanced conversion methods in the production of cellulosic ethanol. Among the feedstocks that will be assessed are switchgrass, hardwood and sugarcane bagasse.

Effective feedstock hydrolysis depends on many factors, including the right engineering, effective formation organisms and process development. During hydrolysis cellulosic material is broken down into sugar, which then is fermented into ethanol. The two-step process continues with fermentation.

Mascoma will focus on engineering, fermentation organisms and process development, while Finland-based Roal Oy, an affiliate of ABF, will focus on enzyme development. AB Enzymes, based in Darmstadt, Germany, will focus on managing the enzymes supply chain, as well as innovation in enzymes from Aspergillus and bacterial sources, ABF said in a statement.

"We have selected a number of thermo-stable enzymes for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass and expressed these using our Trichoderma production platform," said Tracey Scribbins, group marketing manager for ABF Ingredients. Scribbins said along with industry partners, they determine, for their specific substrate and process conditions, the most optimal blend of these enzymes, to be used in their pilot and demo facilities.

Scribbins said corn ethanol and other sources of starch will continue to play a role, but research continues to move ahead on cellulosic ethanol. "The abundance in cellulosic biomass contributes in the global future needs for alternative biofuels, without competing for land and food/feed applications," he said.

Roal Oy and AB Enzymes plan to leverage their substantial distribution networks and application know-how in support of the project. "Our platform based on Trichoderma technology is ideally suited to providing unique solutions that other platforms cannot," said Jari Vehmaanpera, director of Roal Oy. "Our long time investment in Thermostable enzymes, developed for other countries, was a key reason for Mascoma to choose us as a partner."

Vehmaanpera said the future of biomass looks bright and the collaboration and joint efforts will yield positive results.