Germans test new cellulosic yeast technology

By Luke Geiver | February 09, 2010
Posted March 3, 2010

Butalco GMBH, a German biofuels and biochemicals developer, will begin making cellulosic ethanol in the summer of 2010 at a pilot plant in Stuttgart. Using grass, corn-stover and other agriculture waste for feedstock, the company will implement its new yeast-catalyst technology to increase production yields up to 30 percent. "Our new technology now tells the yeast cells to also ferment the C5 waste sugars into ethanol which makes the production of cellulosic ethanol much more efficient and cheaper," said Butalco's co-founder Eckhard Boles.

After using Novozymes CTec2 enzyme to convert the lignocelluloses into glucose and xylose, the yeast catalyst will be added to the fermentation process to convert the remaining sugars into ethanol according to Gunter Festel of Butalco. The newly built pilot plant at Hohenheim University will test the performance of the yeast cells under industrial conditions to find needed improvements for future larger scale use.

Concerned with questions on the production of bioethanol, the Institute of Fermentation Technology within the Department of Food Science and Biotechnology at Hohenheim signed a contract last year with Butalco. The contract includes the research and development of the whole process including all production steps from lignocelluloses hydrolysis to downstream processing. "Together with the new commercially viable enzymes launched by the enzyme companies Danisco and Novozymes," Boles said, "Butalco's yeast technology will enable cellulosic ethanol as a competitive alternative to gasoline." Another advantage to the Hohenheim plant said Festel, is that the facility is the only plant in Germany that allows genetically modified yeasts.