January 21, 2007

Celunol launches commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Japan

Celunol Corporation out of Dedham, Massachusetts is making good on its commitment to help open commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities this year using their proprietary wet biomass conversion technology.

The technology

The sugar in cellulosic biomass is locked up in the form of cellulose and hemicellulose. Cellulose contains glucose, the same type of sugar—a six-carbon (C6) sugar—that is found in cornstarch and that can be fermented to ethanol using conventional yeasts.  However, hemicellulose contains mainly non-glucose sugars—five-carbon (C5) sugars.  Conventional yeasts cannot ferment most non-glucose sugars to ethanol with commercially acceptable yields.

Celunol’s technology enables almost complete conversion of all the sugars found in cellulosic biomass.  This efficiency advantage, combined with the low input cost of cellulosic biomass, results in superior economics in the production of ethanol.

(Its) groundbreaking technology is based on the metabolic engineering of microorganisms. Its key element is a set of genetically engineered strains of Escherichia coli bacteria that are capable of fermenting into ethanol essentially all of the sugars released from many types of cellulosic biomass. This trait enables Celunol to achieve the required efficiency to make the process commercially feasible.

BioEthanol Japan Begins Production of Cellulosic Ethanol from Wood Scraps; Uses Celunol Technology

BioEthanol Japan on Tuesday became the world’s first company to produce cellulosic ethanol from wood construction waste on a commercial basis.

The plant in Osaka Prefecture has an annual capacity of 1.4 million liters (about 370,000 gallons US). In 2008, it plans to boost production to 4 million liters (1 million gallons).

BioEthanol Japan was established in 2004 by five companies, including construction firm Taisei Corp., major trading house Marubeni Corp., Daiei Inter Nature System, and beermaker Sapporo Breweries Ltd.

Marubeni is supplying the process technology, which it has licensed from US-based Celunol (earlier post), to BioEthanol Japan. Marubeni is also supplying the same technology for a wood ethanol project in Asia, and is also involved in a bioethanol project using sugar cane in Thailand run by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

Celunol is a privately held company headquartered in Dedham, Massachusetts moving rapidly to commercialize its proprietary technology for producing ethanol from a wide array of cellulosic biomass feedstocks, including bagasse, agricultural waste, wood products and dedicated energy crops.

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