Genencor explores biomass projects

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Genencor, a Division of Danisco A/S in Rochester, N.Y., recently announced its involvement in multiple biomass-related projects.

In September, Genencor agreed to work with Finland-based Fortum Corp. to build an 18-megawatt-per-year, woodchip-fired power plant in Hanko, Finland. The thermal power plant will provide industrial steam for Genencor's enzyme manufacturing plant located there and municipal district heating for the Hanko community, according to Genencor's Hanko Plant Manager Antti Kosola. Currently, the Hanko plant receives its industrial steam from a power plant running on heavy fuel oil. The new plant will result in a 90 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions to meet the plant's steam requirement, Kosola said. According to Fortum, the plant will be commissioned by the end of 2009.

Meanwhile, Genencor and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. have announced a partnership to develop a process that convertsbiomass into trademarked BioIsoprene, a potential ingredient in synthetic rubber used for tires and other products. The new product is expected to serve as an alternative to petroleum-based isoprene. The natural source of isoprene is the tree species Hevea brasiliensis, also known as the rubber tree. Demand for natural rubber is expected to exceed supply by 2010, according to Tom Knutzen, chief executive officer for Danisco.

Prior to the official announcement Sept. 16, the companies had been working together for approximately one year to determine whether to move forward, according to Jennifer Hutchins, a spokeswoman for Genencor. The company will invest $50 million over the next three years to develop and scale up the technology, but Genencor expects the process to be technically ready by 2010. The first large-scale manufacturing plant is expected to be commissioned by 2012, and the first commercial sales of the product are expected in 2013.