New enzyme technology produces more ethanol with less corn

By Novozymes | June 10, 2013

Novozymes has announced the launch of new enzyme technology that can increase ethanol yield from corn by up to 5 percent. The technology also increases corn oil extraction by 13 percent, while saving 8 percent energy.

The efficiency improvements can be achieved when two new enzymes, Spirizyme Achieve and Olexa, are used together with another Novozymes enzyme, Avantec.

“These new enzyme innovations offer strong benefits to ethanol producers,” said Andrew Fordyce, executive vice president for business operations at Novozymes. “It allows our customers to make more from less and substantially improve their profit margins.”

A typical U.S. ethanol plant uses around 36 million bushels (900,000 tons) of feed-grade corn per year to produce 100 million gallons of fuel ethanol, 300,000 tons of animal feed (DDGS) and 8,500 tons of corn oil. By using Avantec, Olexa and Spirizyme Achieve, such a plant can save up to 1.8 million bushels (45,000 tons) of corn while maintaining the same ethanol output, increasing corn oil extraction, and generating up to $5 million in additional profit.

Avantec was introduced in October 2012 and has been well received in the U.S. ethanol industry.

“Our customers demand risk-free options that do not require major investments,” Fordyce said. “That is exactly what our enzymes offer. We are the first to market this full package and are looking forward to implementing it together with our customers, trialing the technology at their plants, and getting the solutions out there. It’s a competitive industry and only via innovation like this can Novozymes continue to be the leading supplier of enzymes to the ethanol industry.”

Corn is the key raw material in biofuel production in the U.S. and by far the biggest cost component for an ethanol plant. After the corn is harvested, the kernels are ground into corn meal and water added to make a mash. Enzymes convert the starch in the mash to sugar, which can then be fermented to ethanol. Avantec and Spirizyme Achieve convert starch to sugar more efficiently than any other enzyme product on the market, while Olexa works by freeing up oil bound in the corn germ.

Corn oil is used in the production of animal feed, biodiesel and soaps, and has become an increasingly important revenue stream for ethanol producers. Extensive implementation of extraction technology from 2008 to 2012 has seen the industry record a nearly five-fold increase in corn oil production, according to a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago. Novozymes estimates that approximately 80 percent of the operating ethanol capacity in the U.S. will have incorporated oil extraction into their plants by end 2013.

The U.S. is the world’s biggest biofuels producer, and ethanol today accounts for approximately 10 percent of gasoline consumption in the U.S. transportation sector.