The next generation of biofuels that don’t use food crops as a raw material are starting to take hold, with a big expansion of the industry coming after 2020. Novozymes A/S Chief Executive Officer Peder Holk Nielsen said the industry is shifting slowly toward using more cellulosic material, the woody bits of plants, instead of food crops such as corn and sugar beets. Novozymes is the biggest maker of enzymes used in the chemical process to make biofuels. “There are seven demonstration plants in the world that are producing at a commercial scale” for next generation biofuels, said Holk Nielsen. “We are expecting a larger second wave of projectsafter 2020.” The industry still faceschallenges such as the need for new technologies for harvesting the plants and finding better ways to break down tough fibers in plants so that the fuel conversion process works more easily, he said. The executive said the oil price slump may benefit biofuel makers, since cheaper energy will lower the cost of processing.
Inedible biofuels, also known as second generation, are less controversial than their edible counterparts because there is public opposition to growing food crops to burn rather than eat. However, they are more difficult to refine as they generally have tougher cellulose than softer food plants. Novozymes is urging governments to set a mandate for biofuels, forcing oil companies to offer them to consumers. It sees such rules as a necessary step for the products to
gain a market foothold.