Lignol, Novozymes team up

By Lisa Gibson | February 09, 2010
Posted February 24, 2010

Vancourver-based Lignol Energy Corp. has signed a memorandum of understanding with enzyme giant Novozymes and the two companies have established the framework of a multiyear collaboration agreement to optimize the latest generation of Novozymes' enzymes for use in Lignol's cellulosic biofuel process.

The research on enzyme performance will begin this year at Lignol's 100,000-liter-per-year fully integrated pilot plant in Burnaby, British Columbia. Final designs will be developed for a commercial demonstration plant and Lignol plans to build large-scale biorefineries that will utilize its process with Novozymes enzymes, although no timeline has been established yet, according to Ross MacLachlan, Lignol president and CEO. The company is in discussions with the U.S. DOE about funding for a plant that would be completed by the end of 2012, he added. No location has been established, but Lignol expects it will be built in the Pacific Northwest.

Lignol's biofuel conversion process uses hardwood chips now, but will begin running softwood later this year, according to MacLachlan. "Essentially, we fractionate the biomass into cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin such that each of these clean streams can be suitable for downstream processing," he said. The Burnaby pilot plant does not run on a full-time basis, MacLachlan said, as it is only used for test runs. Daily and weekly operation is meant to gather data for enhancements and provide information for engineering designs of commercial-scale plants.

"We are excited with the opportunity to collaborate with the world's leading enzyme producer to optimize their latest technology for Lignol's unique substrate," MacLachlan said. "In doing so, we are removing a critical barrier to the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol. This marks a major step for our industry in achieving the cellulosic biofuel objectives set out by various governments throughout the world. Our integrated pilot is perfectly suited for this type of collaboration in which our industrial process is coupled with Novozymes' biological technology to make cellulosic ethanol a commercial reality." Confirmation of affordable enzyme costs in an industrial facility is essential for commercial momentum, he added.