Mascoma Announces Major Research Advance for Cellulosic Ethanol


Mascoma says they’ve achieved a 60% reduction in cost for their consolidated bioprocessing technology (CBP).

Mascoma Corp., a well-known firm pursuing the advanced production of cellulosic ethanol, announced today what they’re calling “major scientific advances” that will enable them to produce lower cost, lower carbon fuel from sustainable sources.

This is a true breakthrough that takes us much, much closer to billions of gallons of low cost cellulosic biofuels. Many had thought that CBP was years or even decades away, but the future just arrived. Mascoma has permanently changed the biofuels landscape from here on.

-Dr. Bruce Dale, Scientific Advistory Board of Mascoma


Mascoma’s value-proposition is to elminate as many steps as possible in the processing of non-food cellulosic feedstocks to produce ethanol. The consolidation of the process—which involves enzymatically breaking apart cellulose into sugars, and then fermenting the sugars into alcohol—dramatically reduces overall cost. CBP eliminates the need for added and costly enzymes to process pretreated lignocellulose into ethanol.

While significant, the breakthrough doesn’t actually speed up the commercialization of Mascoma’s technology. These are lab results that must first be taken to the the testing facility in Rome, NY. But as a company representative told me on the phone, there are really no major technical breakthroughs that need to happen now. 

These advances enable the reduction in operating and capital costs required for cost-effective commercial production of ethanol, bringing Mascoma substantially closer to commercialization. Our results go a long way toward establishing the feasibility of the processing concept that we have built our company around – so this is a big day for us.

-Jim Flatt, Executive Vice President of Research, Development and Operations at Mascoma

Mascoma is ramping up on a 40 million-gallon-per-year facility in Kinross, MI. The project is being funded by both the DOE ($26 mil) and the state of Michigan ($23.5 mil).

[UPDATE]: Jim Flatt at Mascoma and he gave me the following additional details:

  • Further strain optimization through 2010 will yield additional cost reduction important to improving financial attractiveness of Kinross, MI plant
  • Mascoma will be doing full testing of improved CBP strains and integrated process in Rome with associated process engineering specific to CBP.

More: GM Announces New Cellulosic Ethanol Partnership with Mascoma Corp.



In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.