Sunday, April 29, 2007

Optimizing crop feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production

Michael J. Blaylock1, Bruce W. Ferguson1, Stephen R. Decker2, and Rolf Prade3. (1) Edenspace Systems Corporation, 3810 Concorde Parkway, Suite 100, Chantilly, VA 20151, (2) Chemical and Biosciences Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 1617 Cole Blvd, Golden, CO 80401, (3) Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078

While great progress has recently been made in reducing the cost of bioreactor-manufactured cellulases, such enzymes still represent a significant fraction of cellulosic ethanol cost. Engineering crops with genes for cellulases is expected to reduce cellulosic ethanol enzyme costs and today’s high capital equipment, energy, and disposal costs, as well as increase ethanol yields per acre, reduce CO2 emissions and pollution from fossil fuels, increase energy independence, and raise rural and farm incomes. In 2006, an Energy Corntm Consortium of universities, other not-for-profit institutions, government, and industry received a three-year, $1,926,900 award from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund development of corn hybrids optimized for production of cellulosic ethanol. With this funding under the Biomass Research and Development Initiative jointly administered by DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Consortium is pursuing a development program that integrates three core elements: (i) identification and testing of superior enzymes; (ii) rapid development of corn feedstocks bred specifically for cellulosic ethanol production from corn leaves and stems (stover), and (iii) pursuit of cellulosic ethanol techniques that share use of current corn grain ethanol production facilities. Current status and future milestones of the program will be discussed.

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