This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 05, 2004

Canadian Company Starts Production of Ethanol from Cellulose

Ethanol fuel is now being produced from cellulose and sold for commercial use by Iogen Corporation, the Canadian-based company announced in late April. Ethanol is currently produced from starchy grains such as corn, but cellulose ethanol is produced from more "woody" agricultural byproducts, such as straw, corn cobs, and corn stalks, which are often discarded as waste. Iogen is producing its cellulose ethanol at a demonstration plant, but claims to be in the process of finalizing locations for a full-scale commercial plant. The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) hailed the achievement as a "key breakthrough." See the press releases from Iogen and BIO.

DOE is also supporting research and development in cellulose ethanol. In late April, Novozymes A/S announced that it has cut the cost of the enzymes needed for producing ethanol from cellulose by a factor of 20. The gains were achieved in part by Novozymes' advances in enzyme technologies, and in part by improved pre-treatment processes for corn wastes that were developed by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The new pre-treatment process allows the use of fewer enzymes per gallon of ethanol produced. See the Novozymes press release.

Meanwhile, the traditional ethanol fuel industry continues to grow. In February and March, two new ethanol plants started production in Iowa—one near Hanlontown and one near Ashton. Annually, each plant will convert more than 16 million bushels of corn into 45 million gallons of ethanol. Construction began on another new plant near Emmetsburg, Iowa, in late April, so the state currently has 12 operating ethanol plants and 5 under construction. Nationwide, 75 ethanol plants are now operating and are able to produce more than 3.2 billion gallons of ethanol per year. The thirteen plants now under construction will add another 500 million gallons in production capacity. With new plants coming on line, the industry breaks its production records each month; in February, the industry produced a record 212,000 barrels of ethanol each day. See the Renewable Fuels Association press releases from February 27th, March 26th, April 26th, and April 27th.

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