Enchi Corporation, September 1, 2020
The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded Enchi Corporation a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant for a project entitled “Proof-of-concept for lignocellulose processing to fuels using engineered thermophilic bacteria and cotreatment.”
The project is aimed at an innovative approach for low-cost processing of lignocellulose to fuels and chemicals based on engineered thermophilic bacteria combined with milling during fermentation (cotreatment). This approach, termed C-CBP, avoids the two process steps responsible for the high cost of current technology: thermochemical pretreatment and added enzymes. Peer-reviewed technoeconomic analysis indicates an advanced implementation scenario has an 8-fold shorter payback period and economic feasibility at 10-fold smaller scale. Extensions of this analysis show project payback periods for performance parameters in Phase I and Phase II of the SBIR project.
Phase I aims to provide an initial proof of concept that the various components of the C-CBP approach can be functionally integrated, and will enable Phase II activities aimed at realizing commercially-viable performance. Tasks include: 1. Corn stover fermentation using thermophilic cocultures and cotreatment; and 2. Technoeconomic analysis. POET LLC, the world’s leading ethanol producer, will provide corn stover and participate in Task 2.
Enabling low-cost conversion of corn-stover to ethanol via C-CBP would lead to increased revenue and job creation for both corn farmers and fuel producers. The difficulty of converting lignocellulose carbohydrate into a fermentable form, i.e. overcoming the recalcitrance of lignocellulose, is the barrier addressed by this proposal. Establishment of C-CBP for low-cost ethanol production from corn stover would thus be an important step toward realizing the long-anticipated vision of expanded use of cellulosic feedstocks in the bioeconomy and rural America.
About Enchi Corporation
Technology to drive the next generation of biofuels
Enchi is focused on developing biological conversion systems based on engineered bacteria which convert non-food cellulosic biomass to fuels and chemicals. We seek to use thermophilic bacteria to process biomass without added enzymes and with little or no pretreatment. Enchi leverages years of research and unique technology to bring the world’s most economically feasible biofuels.
Thermophilic bacteria and their enzymes have superior capability to solubilize lignocellulose as compared to industry-standard fungal cellulase. By taking full advantage of this capability combined with innovative processing strategies, Enchi foresees dramatic reduction in the cost of lignocellulose conversion using an approach we call “C-CBP.”
Enabled by recent advances in genetic engineering, Enchi Corp. starts with thermophilic microorganisms representative of nature’s best hemicellulose and cellulose fermenters, and develops strains that produce desired products well. A growing body of research suggests that the Enchi approach has some substantial inherent advantages and is likely to be the most cost effective for some important applications. In particular, by taking advantage of the superior feedstock-utilizing capability of thermophiles, it is possible to envision biomass processing with no added enzymes and with little or no pretreatment, thus avoiding the two principle impediments to cost-effective processing today.