Mitsui, Inbicon sign agreement

By Holly Jessen | February 09, 2010
Posted March 2, 2010

A Danish cellulosic ethanol company and a Japanese heavy industries company have announced they will work together toward cellulosic ethanol production in Southeast Asia. Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding signed a licensing agreement to build a number of biomass refineries using Inbicon Biomass Refinery technology. "[Mitsui is] currently doing all the feasibilities on how many, volumes, and actual locations," said Christian Morgen, senior manager of business development and marketing for Inbicon in an email to EPM.

Mitsui, which is headquartered in Tokyo, plans to use wastes from palm oil production to produce ethanol, according to an Inbicon press release. The process results in animal feed as a coproduct, or molasses suitable for a high-value mix in cattle feed, Morgen said. Or, the molasses can be used for biogas production to produce electricity. A second coproduct is solid biofuel, or clean lignin, for energy production, either on site or sold to a power station. This is the first time Inbicon has signed a licensing agreement for its technology.

"With the agreement, we have taken an important step towards the establishing of a plant engineering business for the production of second-generation ethanol in Southeast Asia," said Shunichi Yamashita, director of Mitsui. "We have already committed considerable resources to the development of this new business. Furthermore, we are expecting to expand the cooperation with Inbicon into other markets."

Mitsui and Inbicon have been developing a relationship for the past year, said Niels Henriksen, CEO of Inbicon, in a press release. Their first project together was to test palm waste as a feedstock. "Signing this agreement positions Mitsui as a frontrunner," he said. "We consider it a significant step forward into a long-lasting collaboration. It's also an important milestone in the commercialization of Inbicon technology. With the latest developments within enzyme technology from leading enzyme suppliers such as Danisco Genencor and Novozymes, we are now looking at making large-scale production of second-generation ethanol truly practical in countries around the world."

Inbicon A/S, a subsidiary of DONG Energy A/S, has operated a second-generation biofuel pilot plant since 2003. A demonstration plant was established last December in Kalundborg, Denmark. The biomass refinery converts wheat straw into ethanol and produces the coproducts of animal feed and lignin pellets for energy production.

In addition to ship building, Mitsui is active in sectors such as energy, information logistics, industrial plants, medical science and more.