Novozymes partners for waste-to-ethanol project in China

By Holly Jessen | June 20, 2012

Novozymes and China’s Shengquan Group have signed a final agreement to work together on producing cellulosic ethanol from a waste product of Shengquan’s current production process. Novozymes is supplying the necessary enzymes and Shenquan is investing $100 million in a new facility in China—which is expected to begin production in July. “When Shengquan opens its facility next month, it will be the first in the world,” Novozymes President and CEO Steen Riisgaard said in a prepared statement. “It's fantastic to finally see this industry go commercial; for more than 10 years our researchers have worked to bring down the cost of producing ethanol from agricultural residues and household and industrial waste.”

Shengquan Group produces furfural from corncob xylose for resin production, a product used by the foundry industry. Cellulose from the corncob was previously left behind as a waste product. Using Novozyme’s enzymes, the company will ferment it into cellulosic ethanol that will be marketed as an industrial solvent. The facility will have an annual capacity of 20 million tons per year, Novozymes said.

“In order to continue to grow our country’s economy at the same time as reducing our dependency on natural resources and minimizing the environmental impact, we need to start thinking of waste as an extremely valuable resource,” said Yi Lin Tang, president and chairman of Shengquan Group in a Novozomes press release. “Basically, we want and need to nurture a green and circular bioeconomy which is less dependent on fossil resources.”

The companies finalized the agreement June 15 during a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Denmark, Novozyme’s headquarters. Also present were Denmark’s Crown Prince and Minister for Economic Affairs and the Interior as well as the Vice-Premier of China. Novozymes was thrilled by the visit, Riisgaard said, adding that the project was a “perfect match” for the company. “China leads the world when it comes to investments in green energy and biochemicals, and the country’s long-term goals to improve its energy efficiency by 20 percent are among the most ambitious,” he said.

Shengquan Group is based in Shandong province, in the city of Jinan, the same location as Novozyme’s recently opened innovation and business center. Since 1994, Novozymes has invested more than $500 million in China. The company also operates four production facilities in China with plans for further investments in the future. Its other partnerships in China include one with COFCO and Sinopec to develop advanced biofuels, the company said.