Novozymes A/S, the largest maker of industrial enzymes, expects to achieve a target to sell its output to more than 15 cellulosic-ethanol plants by 2017 even as markets in the U.S. and China slow.
“That will happen, so I’m not so concerned,” Peder Holk Nielsen, chief executive officer of the Bagsvaerd, Denmark-based company, said in an interview in Beijing.
Novozymes, which hasn’t said how many cellulosic-ethanol plants it already sells to, seeks to add clients as governments study using more biofuel to replace gasoline. Its expansion in Brazil, where use of sugarcane biogas is growing, was given a boost with its 2012 acquisition of a stake in Beta Renewables SpA, which uses Novozymes products to break down non-food crops or waste and turn them into the sugary liquids used in biofuels.
Beta Renewables has sold a technology license to Brazil for production of biofuels that use agricultural waste as feedstock, Nielsen said yesterday.
The CEO expects more sugarcane-bagasse plants to open in the Latin American country, the world’s top sugar producer, around 2015. Residue from sugarcane processing “already sits in the backyard of ethanol plants, so it’s very available and makes it easiest for the Brazilians to go for it.”
Biofuels growth has eased in North America and China as economic expansion ebbs. The U.S. corn-ethanol market shrank last year after overproduction caused a glut and corn prices soared, and will recover slowly, Nielsen said. China doesn’t yet offer subsidies to blend cellulosic ethanol into gasoline, curbing demand.
“Back in 2008, Chinese companies had very aggressive plans, so did American companies, and everything got delayed because of the crisis at least outside China and a lack of political commitment to do it,” Nielsen said.
Beta Renewables has a cellulosic-ethanol demonstration plant in Crescentino, Italy, that started in the first half and will produce as many as 20 million gallons a year. Producers of biomass use the facility to process their material and can buy enzymes -- the catalysts needed for conversion -- from Novozymes, Nielsen said.
“There’s a long line of partners waiting to get in. We’re working to get the plant running at full speed continuously,” he said. He expects the site to operate at maximum capacity this year.
Novozyme’s bioenergy division accounted for 15 percent of sales in the first half. The household-care unit contributed the biggest share at 35 percent.