Enchi Corporation, October 7, 2021
The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded Enchi Corporation a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant valued at $650,000 over 2 years for a project entitled “Development of C-CBP to enable cash-positive conversion of corn stover to biofuels co-located at a corn ethanol mill.” POET LLC, the world’s largest biofuel producer, and Vertimass LLC, with technology to convert ethanol into jet fuel blend stocks, will participate. Lievense Bioengineering LLC will provide Technical and Business Assistance (TABA).
The project is focused on an innovative approach for low-cost processing of lignocellulose to fuels and chemicals based on engineered thermophilic bacteria. This approach, termed C-CBP, avoids the two process steps responsible for the high cost of current technology: thermochemical pretreatment and added enzymes. The project targets the opportunity for C-CBP with the shortest path to commercialization: corn stover to ethanol. An earlier USDA-funded Phase I SBIR project nearly doubled ethanol titers from corn stover, successfully demonstrated simultaneous conversion of C6 and C5 sugars, and showed that components of the C-CBP approach can be functionally integrated.
Peer-reviewed technoeconomic analysis carried out in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has shown that an advanced cellulosic ethanol plant employing C-CBP has an 8-fold shorter payback period and economic feasibility at 10-fold smaller scale than conventional scenarios. The objectives of the Phase II proposal are to improve the technical performance of ethanol production from corn stover via C-CBP through a combination of bioprocess and strain improvement; design a low-cost demonstration plant co-located at a POET corn ethanol mill that and will have revenues that exceed operating expenses; demonstrate key features of C-CBP at increased scale at POET’s Research Center in South Dakota; and perform a technoeconomic and market analysis of catalytic conversion of ethanol to hydrocarbon blendstocks.
The anticipated results of this project include the development of a small business and commercialization of a highly innovative technology. This Phase II project represents a critical step toward enabling low-cost conversion of corn-stover to ethanol and would lead to increased revenue and job creation for both corn farmers and fuel producers. Commercialization of C-CBP will be important progress toward realizing the long-anticipated benefits of expanded use of cellulosic feedstocks with respect to rural economic development and climate stabilization.
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.