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Projects to Develop Fermentative Organisms to Speed Ethanol Refining

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner today announced just over $23 million in federal funding, subject to negotiation of final project plans and funding, for five projects focused on developing highly efficient fermentative organisms to convert biomass material to ethanol.  This research will further President Bush's goals of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive by 2012 and, along with increased automobile fuel efficiency, reducing America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent in ten years.

"These projects will play a critical role in furthering our knowledge of how we can produce cellulosic ethanol cost-effectively," Assistant Secretary Karsner said.  "Ultimately, success in producing cost-competitive cellulosic ethanol could be a key to breaking our nation's addiction to oil.  By relying on American farmers and ingenuity for fuel, we will enhance our nation's energy and economic security."

Today's announcement is one part of President Bush's comprehensive plan to support commercialization of scientific breakthroughs on biofuels.  Specifically, these projects directly support the goals of President Bush's Twenty in Ten Initiative, which aims to increase the use of renewable and alternative fuels in the transportation sector to the equivalent of 35 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2017.  Funding for these projects, an integral part of the President's Biofuels Initiative, will enable biorefineries to produce transportation fuels, electricity and other products from a wide variety of plant material, such as agricultural waste, trees, forest residues, and perennial grasses.  These feedstocks can be produced in nearly every region of the country.

Commercialization of fermentative organisms is crucial to the success of integrated biorefineries.  Fermentative organisms speed refining by converting lignocellulosic biomass material to ethanol.  Today's selections build upon the announcement of six biorefinery projects announced earlier this year. Commercialized fermentative organisms will be crucial to achieving commercial scale in cellulosic ethanol refining.

Projects were selected for the organism's capacity to convert lignocellulosic biomass to ethanol in process-relevant conditions that would be economical in the commercial market.  Additionally, the organism must be able to survive a wide range of environmental conditions and remain stable from adverse mutation.  Selectees must have the ability to produce at commercial scale in the future and have a sound business strategy to market the organism.

Combined with the industry cost share, more than $37 million could be invested in these five projects.  Negotiations between the selected companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels.  Funding will begin this fiscal year and run through FY 2010, subject to congressional appropriations.

Projects submitted by these five applicants were selected:

  • Cargill Incorporated to receive up to $4.4 million
  • Celunol Corporation to receive up to $5.3 million
  • E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Company to receive up to $3.7 million
  • Mascoma Corporation to receive up to $4.9 million
  • Purdue University to receive up to $5.0 million

Cellulosic ethanol is an alternative fuel made from a wide variety of non-food plant materials (or feedstocks), including agricultural wastes such as corn stover and cereal straws, industrial plant waste like saw dust and paper pulp, and energy crops grown specifically for fuel production like switchgrass.

By using a variety of regional feedstocks for refining cellulosic ethanol, fuel can be produced in nearly every region of the country.  Though it requires a more complex refining process, cellulosic ethanol contains more net energy and results in lower greenhouse emissions than traditional corn-based ethanol.  E-85, an ethanol-fuel blend comprised of 85-percent ethanol, is already available in more than 1,000 fueling stations nationwide and can power millions of flexible fuel vehicles already on the roads.

For more information on President's Bush's Twenty in Ten Initiative visit:

Media contact(s):

Julie Ruggiero, (202) 586-4940