Verenium, VPP partner to evaluate feedstock

By Erin Voegele | October 06, 2009
Report posted Oct. 22, 2009, at 10:01 a.m. CST

Cambridge, Mass.-based Verenium Corp. recently announced it has entered into an agreement with Value Prior to Pulping (VPP), an organization created by the Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance, which is a special project of the American Forest and Paper Association and CleanTech Partners Inc. VPP is funded by the U.S. DOE, Wisconsin and several large forest products companies.

Under the agreement, Verenium will test the effectiveness of its C5 cellulosic ethanol production technology on hemicellulose feedstock generated by the pulp and paper process.

According to Kelly Lindenboom, Verenium's vice president of corporate communications, the technology that will be used to evaluate VPP's feedstock is Verenium's legacy technology, which was licensed from the University of Florida. Unlike the technology being employed by Vercipia Biofuels, Verenium's joint venture with British Petroleum plc, which converts both C5 and C6 sugars into ethanol, this legacy technology converts only C5 sugars into ethanol. The legacy C5 technology is currently being employed by Japan-based Marubeni Corp. to produce ethanol from construction waste wood.

Lindenboom said it is unclear exactly how much feedstock will be supplied to Verenium by VPP. However, she said it will be of a sufficient amount to carry out laboratory-scale research and evaluation. "This is very preliminary research," she said.

It is estimated that a typical 1,500 ton-per-day kraft mill could supply enough hemicellulosic feedstock to produce approximately 15 million gallons of ethanol each year. The total potential market opportunity is estimated to be between 1.5 billion and 2 billion gallons of ethanol per year, said Lindenboom.

"We are pleased to be partnering with VPP and enthusiastic for the opportunity to explore the potential of our C5 technology to create biofuels from feedstocks sourced from the pulping process," said Gregory Powers, Verenium's executive vice president of research and development. "Integrating ethanol production into the pulping process could create an attractive market opportunity for Verenium and the pulping industry. If this project proves successful, Verenium will be well positioned to enable this new source of low-cost biofuels."