Business: Bio-informatics, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals
Industry in focus - bioethanol
Production and use of biofuel provides opportunities and risks and is subject to a lot of debate and reports. Novozymes sees bioethanol as a major step towards meeting increasing needs with limited resources - if done the right way.
Here you can read more about Novozymes’ role in the industry and our vision for how bioethanol can help meet increasing global needs. You can also get overview of our positions in the current debate and the papers we have prepared in our work to understand the sustainability dimensions of bioethanol.
Novozymes uses biotechnology to improve the use of resources in more than 30 industries around the world. The biofuel industry is one of them. Novozymes offers what is likely the most efficient technology platform to further improve the sustainability performance of bioethanol production.
The use of enzymes in the bioethanol industry is a mature and proven technology. Nonetheless, there is still great potential in the use of enzyme technology to further optimize and improve the production of bioethanol production.
Using enzymes, the current industry achieves higher yields, increases efficiency in every single plant, and thus realizes a strengthened sustainability profile - and the technology is constantly developing.
In 2010 our enzymes will make it possible to produce second-generation bioethanol that converts waste and agricultural residues into energy. This will be a radical development in the search for new renewable energy sources.
Bioethanol is the first step on a journey to meet increasing needs with limited resources.
The number of people on this planet is growing. Oil resources are running out and the level of CO2 is increasing rapidly – likely to a level were dramatic and irreversible climate change will happen.
It is therefore urgent that we all become better at using the renewable resources we have available. All our renewable resources must be used in the most optimal way - including biomass. We believe bioethanol is the first step in that direction.
Bioethanol is an important step on a journey that will take us along a new way of thinking about plants – and about our resources in general. Everything that today is made with oil can in principle be made based on biomass. Bioethanol can be the first part of a paradigm shift replacing fossil fuels as oil and gas with renewable sources. The bioethanol industry helps establish the technology and the infrastructure that will make it possible in the future to replace oil and gas in everything from water pipes to fleece jackets. A whole range of materials and chemicals could be replaced with materials made from sustainable and renewable biomass from nature. The challenge is to achieve all these benefits in a sustainable way.
New way of thinking about resources
Crops are essential for food and feed production, but they also contain elements that can be used for energy and for other commodities. There are many methods to produce bioethanol and, done the right way, it is possible to produce sustainable energy while ensuring food and feed production to meet the global needs.
Bioethanol is based on renewable resources and can reduce our dependency on fossil fuel. By 2030 bioethanol can meet 25% of the global need for energy for road transport* – and a lot more as vehicle fuel economy improves.
First-generation bioethanol is produced from crops such as sugar cane/beet, corn, wheat, barley, rye, sorghum, and cassava. This technology is in place and all commercial production of bioethanol is currently first generation.
Second-generation bioethanol is produced from feedstock containing cellulosic biomass such as the stalks, leaves, and husks of corn plants, wood chips, and sawdust. Second-generation bioethanol may also be produced from energy crops such as switch grass. The advantages of energy crops include their need for less fertilizer and the fact that they can be harvested several times a year. Enzyme< technology is constantly developing, and Novozymes expects that the enzyme technology for commercially viable production of second-generation bioethanol will be on the market in 2010.
Biofuel< is currently offering the only immediately available alternative to fossil fuels within transportation. Our technology opens the door to new thinking, about where to find resources and how to use them.
1st generation builds bridge to 2nd generation
1st generation is far better than the only other alternative right now which is oil. We can realize the benefits of 1st generation bioethanol now – and on top of that use it as a bridge to the next generation. By investing in 1st generation today we help build the industry and the infrastructure needed to make 2nd generation commercially viable; by:
- Giving biofuel producers time to further reduce production costs
- Giving investors and retailers the confidence needed for them to make the investments into production capacity and the build the infrastructure needed for a well-functioning biofuel market. A predictable and stable biofuel market significantly reduces the risk faced by potential investors in 2g bioethanol – and will speed up the investments needed today if we are to have 2g in 2010
- Encouraging consumers to invest in flexfuel vehicles able to run on high biofuel blends like for example E85
* Doornbosch and Steenblik, Biofuels: Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?
Our view on the debate
Bioethanol can do a world of good if produced sustainably.
The public discourse began with a rather one-sided praise of bioethanol. Now it is dominated by a rather heated debate. The media tends to give voice mostly to the more extreme positions, giving the impression that one should be either adamantly opposed to or feverishly in favor of bioethanol.
But lost in more sensationalist pursuits is one simple point: Bioethanol can do a world of good if produced sustainably. So it should not be a matter of being for or against bioethanol, but a matter of ensuring that the clear benefits of bioethanol are realized, while limiting or entirely preventing negative impacts.
Although Novozymes is only a supplier of enzymes to the bioethanol industry, we have entered the debate to deliver our understanding of the pros and cons of bioethanol. Given Novozymes’ strong commitment to sustainability, we think it is important that we contribute in a serious and forward-looking way to the discussion around the environmental and the societal opportunities and challenges of biofuel
Supporting sustainability schemes
Bioethanol can of course be produced in non-sustainable ways - which is why Novozymes whole-heartedly supports the efforts currently underway around the world to ensure sustainable production.
We feel that international harmonization in this area should to be sought, with the basic process characterized by both simplicity and transparency. We also feel that it is important to begin these efforts as soon as possible.
We support and participate in efforts now underway in the EU and other regions, to prepare a certification system for sustainable bioethanol. These efforts take a broad range of sustainability perspectives into account, such as: Protection of lands with high biodiversity and high carbon-fixation, protection of forests and arable lands from nutrient depletion, protection of fresh water resources, and protection against soil erosion or contamination. These sustainability perspectives are relevant for agricultural production and forestry in general – not just for the small part that goes into biofuel production.