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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVING BIOCHEMICAL PROCESSES FOR THE PRODUCTION OF SUSTAINABLE FUELS AND CHEMICALS

Location: Renewable Product Technology Research Unit

Title: Current Status and Future Considerations Regarding the US Biofuel Industry

Authors
item Hughes, Stephen
item Tasaki, Ken -
item Rich, Joseph

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: November 14, 2009
Publication Date: November 14, 2009
Citation: Hughes, S.R., Tasaki, K., Rich, J.O. 2009. Current status and future considerations regarding the U.S. Biofuel Industry [abstract]. Mitsubish Chemical Corporation. p. 1.

Technical Abstract: Energy security and climate change imperatives have prompted the US government to approve legislation aimed at large-scale replacement of petroleum-based fuels over the next 15 years. To meet these regulations a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based fuels is required. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is conducting research in several areas to develop biofuels as one such alternative. Biomass is the only known, large-scale, renewable resource that can be converted into liquid fuels for transportation. Cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels from lignocellulosic, cellulosic, or universal sugar feedstocks are particularly promising because they can capitalize on the power of biotechnology to reduce costs, are derived from low-cost and plentiful feedstocks, can achieve high yields, can have desirable fuel properties, and are environmentally friendly. The cellulosic micorganisms being discovered and engineered can provide a platform in which to make other beneficial proteins and co-product chemicals and polymers to increase profitability of the developing cellulosic biofuels industry. The widespread use of fuel ethanol derived from cellulosic biomass is constrained by production costs. The profitability of ethanol production from lignocellulosic biomass can be improved if high-value co-products are also generated. Current processes for fuel ethanol production from starch yield substantial amounts of corn oil as a byproduct that can be used for manufacture of biodiesel and thus removed from the dried distillers’ grain solubles (DDGS) to give lower-fat animal feed. Corn oil triacyglycerides can be converted to fatty acid ethyl esters (biodiesel) and glycerol by transesterification with ethanol. One method being explored in collaborative research between Mitsubishi Chemical Company (MCC) and the USDA Agricultural Research Service is to produce low-cost recombinant lipase biocatalysts in the yeast used for fermentation for catalyzing this transesterification reaction, where the lipase is attached to a resin for a single-step column process. An integrated biorefinery combining starch ethanol and cellulosic ethanol facilities may become cost-effective if biodiesel is produced as a co-product using this column process. Our research has produced a recombinant lipase enzyme and demonstrated that it can catalyze conversion of soybean oil and ethanol to biodiesel when immobilized on Mitsubishi advanced resins.

Last Modified: 12/17/2014
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