Enzyme giant to market advanced biofuel yeast strain

By Luke Geiver | August 29, 2012

A C5 yeast strain developed by Danish-based research firm Terranol for use in advanced biofuel production may soon be available worldwide thanks to industrial enzyme provider Novozymes. According to Claus Crone Fuglsang, vice president of bioenergy research and development for Novozymes, the enzyme giant has had ongoing dialogue with several C5 yeast developers over the years, but recently, Terranol has produced a variant of their yeast that Fuglsang said is among the very best available.

The yeast strain has been optimized to convert C5 sugars and works under standard ethanol fermentation temperatures. The yeast fermentation process takes roughly 48 hours to convert both xylose and glucose sugars in the biomass broth. The yeast strain produces low volumes of the fermentation process byproduct xylitol, according to Terranol. A corn stover hydrolysate, according to the company, can also be fermented with very low xylitol formation while maintaining high yields in roughly 72 hours.

Fuglsang said Novozymes will primarily ensure the yeast is made available to cellulosic ethanol producers through marketing and sales efforts, adding that the company will also help secure the proper registration and approval in the different countries it is to be used in.

“We want to make sure there are no biotech-related hurdles to the creation of a cellulosic ethanol industry,” according to Poul Ruben Andersen, vice president bioenergy at Novozymes.

Terranol’s product will work for feedstocks such as agricultural waste, energy crops and other forms of biomass commonly used to produce advanced biofuel. “A yeast that ferments C5 sugars is essential to cost-efficient production of cellulosic ethanol,” Birgitte Ronnow, CEO of the yeast development company said. “Our C5 yeast is among the furthest developed in the industry and by leveraging Novozymes global marketing muscle we can speed up its commercialization.”