Fracking Corn! Novozymes taps a gusher for hardy biorefiners, in a corn oil extraction breakthrough

January 4, 2021 |

Fortiva Hemi launches with 9-figure upside potential for US biorefining industry.

From North Carolina comes news that Novozymes launched Fortiva Hemi to increase revenues for the enervated but still enthusiastic corn biorefineries of the US heartland.

Fortiva Hemi is a cocktail of novel enzymes for liquefaction that deliver greater than 10% oil yield improvement and up to 1% ethanol yield gain above Novozymes’ industry leading Fortiva Revo liquefaction solutions.

Yes, a 1G solution for those needing Action This Day.

Fortiva Hemi was designed for use in 1G biofuels to capture only the desirable traits of the technology, making them unique to all other enzymes available in the 1G liquefaction space.

The problem

Fuel ethanol plants have previously hit the 95% efficiency mark in converting starch to ethanol, but the efficiency in extracting corn oil has been in the 40% range. So, there’s the opportunity. 

The solution

In a nutshell, Novozymes tapped expertise gained in 2g ethanol projects to get at some of those untapped molecules. Yet it’s 1G not 12G or even 1.5, so, it’s something to help ethanol producers this year while corn oil prices are as high as ever been, and renewable diesel feedstock demand soars.

Fortiva Hemi acts upon the fiber matrix during liquefaction, creating the potential for improved fat and starch conversion that lead to oil and ethanol yield previously inaccessible. This newly freed substrate is then converted using Novozymes’ highest yielding enzyme blends to once again improve ethanol production efficiency.

What it does

Fortiva Hemi is the first enzyme solution designed to specifically act upon the corn fiber matrix during liquefaction, creating the opportunity for improved starch and fat conversion to ethanol and oil, respectively, without creating undesirable sugars that can cause fouling. The novel enzymes efficiently solubilize starch to sugar and fat to oil in liquefaction.

High temp, broad pH

Fortiva Hemi supports liquefaction up to 195°F (91°C) and in pH ranges from 4.8 to 6.0 to maximize corn conversion.

Bonus: Ethanol producers, note!

Fortiva Hemi helps ethanol plants produce more finished goods from less corn inputs, resulting in a lower carbon footprint. The lower the carbon the higher the price that ethanol will bring in California, Oregon and British Columbia, where Low Carbon Fuel Standards reign, and soon across Canada.

Conversing with Novozymes on ethanol and pioneer spirit

We had a chance to catch Brian Brazeau, Novozymes’ Vice President, Agricultural & Industrial Biosolutions, Americas, to chat about this innovation. He spoke about the challenges facing producers.

2020 comes on top of a tough economic year in 2019 where margins were already pretty compressed. “This year brought challenges that we never imagined and our customers need opportunities to create value now, today, so we’ve focused on that,” said Brazeau.

“Yet, you can still feel the spirit with producers,” said Brazeau. “Everyone has a passion to produce a fuel that is cleaner burning. And when you see the pictures after the shutdown and the environment cleaned up and smog disappeared, it made the case for ethanol, that’s what we can have now and more of it in the future. That’s why, to me, the ethanol producers are the pioneers in the biorefinery space. Every year, we see more and more new technologies established on this platform, and already we see uses for this platform that go beyond DDGs and ethanol, such as corn oil, and there’s much more coming.”

“They have resilience. Ethanol producers been through so many cycles up and down, yet they continue to push through. They have passion, they know they are making a difference on climate infrastructure, and agriculture. They are innovative, they have a relentless focus on process and on better ways to do things. And they have fearlessness — they have a vision and have a vision about achieving it.”

The Bottom Line

The list of things not to like about 2020 is too long for the Internet to actually be able to handle the bandwidth challenge. But there have been blessings among the ruins, like the corn poppies that grew between the trenches of Flanders in the First World War.

As Brazeau noted, the producers are pioneers and though we have a mythology that the Old West was settled with good-old American grit and self-reliance, nothing could be further from the truth. The Old West was settled with the advanced technology of its day. The combine harvester, irrigation, hybrid seeds, steam engines, railroads, catalogue delivery, heavy draft horses, these are commonplace now but they were revolutionary then, and American settlers didn’t depend on themselves, they depended on technology to supply the platforms they managed across the Heartland. Not much has changed, really, it’s just the great-grandchildren of the pioneers and technologists of then are the technologists and pioneers of now.

How much of a value add? Well, if you consider that the U.S. dry mill biorefiners process about 5 billion bushels of corn per year, and if you assume there’s 3 percent oil content, and we’re getting about 40 percent of that with existing tech and could bump that by 10 points to say, 50 percent, across the industry it could add up quickly. At 28 cents a pound for corn oil, it pencils out to $235 million on our Digest abacus.

So, happy new year, ethanol producers, and as they used to say at McDonald’s, ‘you deserve a break today’.

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