The market for enzymes for the production of bioethanol continues to grow. Thanks to the launch of three new Viscozyme® products in 2005, Novozymes is now strongly positioned in Europe too.
The high oil prices seen in 2005 helped to increase demand for bioethanol as a car fuel. The market for enzymes for the production of bioethanol from agricultural produce is largest in the USA, but consumption is expected to grow in Europe too in the coming years. The new enzymes from Novozymes have been developed specifically to make use of wheat, barley and rye, which are the dominant cereal crops in Europe.
Bioethanol can be added to gasoline in different ratios, and its use has several benefits. Firstly, bioethanol is carbon-neutral and helps to reduce oil consumption. Secondly, bioethanol is made from renewable resources. Finally, bioethanol boosts gasoline's octane count and can therefore replace the environmentally harmful fuel additive MTBE, which has been banned in a number of states in the USA, among other places. This has helped to drive the US market for bioethanol.
Strong growth in 2005
Enzymes for fuel ethanol have been one of Novozymes' strongest growth areas in 2005, and the estimated market share is now just over 50%. One of the reasons for this strong position is Novozymes' ability to innovate. For example, Novozymes has developed an enzyme for a new technology in the production of bioethanol which reduces energy consumption in the production process and simultaneously gives a higher yield.
Special products for European cereals
Bioethanol is made from agricultural produce, mainly sugar cane, corn (maize) and other grains. In the USA 11-13% of the corn harvest is now used to produce bioethanol. Enzymes help by breaking down starch into sugars. When wheat, barley or rye are used, enzymes are also needed to break down the substances which bind water in the plants. This helps to increase yields, and also reduces the amount of water and energy consumed in the process.
The new products – Viscozyme® Wheat, Viscozyme® Barley and Viscozyme® Rye – have been developed specifically for the cereals that dominate in Europe, and add rye to the list of crops that can be used in the production of bioethanol.
Growth in the use of ethanol is dependent on political factors such as environmental legislation and financial incentives. In 2005 the US Congress set a target of doubling the production of bioethanol by 2012. Developments in Europe have been slower than in the USA, but the EU has set a target of biofuels accounting for 5.75% of energy consumption in the transport sector by 2010. Sweden, Germany, France and Spain are among the European countries that have come furthest in using bioethanol as a fuel.
The future of bioethanol
The use of edible cereals as a useful renewable energy source poses a dilemma which needs to be addressed. Novozymes will continue to work on the development of new and more effective enzymes which produce higher yields and so more bioethanol from a smaller quantity of cereal. In the longer term the goal is to make it possible to produce bioethanol from plant waste such as corn stover, rather than using foodstuffs. In conjunction with the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Novozymes has completed a four-year project which succeeded in reducing the cost of enzymes for this process by a factor of 30. However, there are still technological hurdles to overcome, and financial incentives will be required for ethanol producers to invest in facilities that can use biomass as the raw material.