DOE News; November 7, 1996

DOE Announces Partnership with Arkenol to Cut Ethanol Cost

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced a partnership with Arkenol, Inc., of Mission Viejo, California, to evaluate Arkenol's commercial process for the production of low-cost ethanol for use as a transportation fuel from agricultural wastes and dedicated energy crops. The three-phase project is expected to lead to the development of several commercial plants to produce ethanol from materials high in cellulose.

Under the $670,000 cost-shared agreement, Arkenol will combine its concentrated acid hydrolysis process with NREL's genetically engineered bacteria, Zymomonas Mobilis, to test the commercial viability of the combined processes to produce ethanol from sugar cane wastes, softwoods and napier grass. Sugar cane wastes, such as bagasse and cane trash, are underutilized resources, whose successful conversion to ethanol could improve the competitiveness of the U.S. sugar cane industry.

Arkenol has obtained several patents on its innovative process. In addition, the bacteria, developed by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, won a 1994 R&D 100 Award, for its ability to convert multiple sugars to ethanol.

"A healthy biomass ethanol industry can create thousands of new jobs, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and help clear the air in our nation's cities," said Christine Ervin, DOE assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. "This partnership will take us to the doorstep of a new era and is typical of the way this Department of Energy does business. By partnering with industry and sharing the cost, we accomplish important national goals at lower cost to the taxpayer."

The production of ethanol adds little additional carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, as compared to fossil fuels. For every pound of carbon dioxide released, a pound is recaptured from the growth of new feedstock materials.

Historically, fuel ethanol has been produced from grains (primarily starch from corn). The use of agricultural wastes and energy crops will greatly expand the resource base and market potential for ethanol.

Arkenol plans to create a supply of ethanol for Hawaii, and take advantage of legislation passed by the Hawaii State Legislature which requires that all gasoline sold in the State of Hawaii contain 10 percent ethanol.