Novozymes, a provider of biofuel enzymes, and Royal Nedalco, an yeast developer and ethanol producer, have collaborated to develop a new fermentation process that can ferment C5 and C6 sugars. Fermentation of both types of sugars is essential for the commercialization of cellulosic biofuel.

According to Novozymes, biofuel made from agricultural waste such as corn stover and wheat straw is approaching commercialization, but different steps in the production process can still be improved to make production of the clean-burning fuel cheaper and more efficient.

Under the terms of a joint development agreement, Royal Nedalco will develop different strains of C5 yeast, which will then be tested by the partners. After final development, Royal Nedalco will market the most efficient yeast strain to producers of cellulosic biofuel.

When producing cellulosic biofuel, enzymes convert cellulose and hemicellulose in agricultural waste to sugars which are then fermented into ethanol. To get optimal yields it is essential to ferment not only the easily fermentable C6 sugars (glucose), but also the more difficult C5 sugars (xylose and arabinose), the company said.

Novozymes and Royal Nedalco are now partnering to develop a fermentation process which can achieve that.

Ger Bemer, CEO of Royal Nedalco, said: ”Nedalco has successfully addressed the challenges of C5 sugar fermentation. This partnership will aim to widen and speed up the commercial availability of C5 fermentation technology to cellulosic biofuel producers all over the world.”

Claus Fuglsang, senior director of bioenergy R&D at Novozymes, said: ”Novozymes is first and foremost an enzyme provider, but we wish to be a valuable partner for the biofuel industry. By contributing our fermentation insight to this partnership we help producers of cellulosic biofuel increase their yields. This will benefit the entire industry and eventually also Novozymes.”