It seems like cellulosic ethanol has been five years away for the last 15 years. Now, we’re starting to see the establishment of more facilities that will produce ethanol from wheat straw, corn stalks, and other sources of biomass. Novozymes in partnership with Mossi and Ghisolfi Group is building the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol plant in northwestern Italy. The plant is scheduled to start production in 2012. At 50 million litres per year, the plant will not be very big as compared to many of the facilities that make ethanol from corn and wheat. However, the companies involved say the plant will be 10 times larger than the largest cellulosic demonstration facilities in operations today. Novozymes is the world’s largest producer of industrial enzymes and it will supply the enzymes for turning cellulose into sugar which will then be fermented into ethanol. The companies are heralding this as the dawn of a new green era. The plant is designed to use a number of feedstocks.  Here in Saskatchewan, there has been a promise for many years from Ottawa-based Iogen about a cellulosic plant in Birch Hills or Prince Albert. It has never happened. Perhaps cellulosic ethanol is finally ready to move beyond a few small demonstration facilities, but the development to date has been disappointing.

I’m Kevin Hursh.