Biotechnology is a fast-moving area. No sooner is first generation technology established, than the 'new improved' second generation is bubbling up to take its place. In this kind of scenario, there is frequently a risk of throwing the first-generation baby out with the bath water – bioethanol production being a case in point.
The reputation of 1G bioethanol technology, which uses easily-processed starch from grain-producing crops as the feedstock, started to suffer due to concerns over rising prices for corn fuelled by competition between the food industry and the energy industry. With 2G technology promising to solve this feedstock problem by substituting corn with agrowaste, 1G technology has become increasingly regarded – at least in some media circles – as yesterday's science.
But 1G bioethanol technology still has strengths, not least the fact that the enzymes at the core of the process are much simpler (read cheaper) than those employed in 2G technology. And with the advent of new, multi-product approaches to bioethanol process technology, the kind of difficulties that originally dented the reputation of 1G technology could be circumvented.
Business newspaper Erhvervsbladet reports that such an approach is now being taken by Danish Biofuel Holding A/S, which is planning to build a multi-product bioethanol plant in Grenaa, Jutland, that will annually use 600,000 tons of field corn as the feedstock. The output will comprise 200 million litres of bioethanol, 150,000 tons of protein feed for pig farms and fish farms, and 75,000 tons of fibre that can be used as an additive for baking flour.
Danish Biofuel reckons that DKK 560m (USD 104m) of external finance is needed to get the plant built, and it is in contact with investors both in Denmark and abroad. The combined sales total for all the products the plant will produce is estimated to be DKK 1.2bn (USD 223m) at today's prices. The plant is planned to be up and running by 2012, and will create around 35 new jobs in the area.