“The major bottleneck in the development of fuels from biomass
is a sustainable source of sugars
which does not displace the production of food.”
James Dumesic, the developer of the aqueous reforming process used to produce alkanes from sugars.
Atlantic Biomass Conversions, Inc., is working on providing that sustainable source of sugars for production of advanced transportation biofuels.
One of the most significant roadblocks to the market rate production of non-food advanced biofuels is the cost and availability of biofuel and biochemical sugar precursors. Atlantic Biomass is focused on overcoming this roadblock through the development and commercialization of enzyme based systems that can be deployed in decentralized systems ranging from agricultural processing plants to portable in-field units. Among the advantages of enzyme hydrolysis in biofuel applications are:
1) Enzyme hydrolysis preserves proteins in plant biomass for animal feed. This process increases agricultural residue revenue for growers and provides better balance for the food/fuel use of agricultural crops. This dual-use advantage is not available with acid hydrolysis systems.
2) An efficient enzyme hydrolysis can be manipulated to improve saccharification rates and yields to commercial levels. In addition, the process can be customized to produce specific mixtures of oligomeric and monomeric sugars (sugar fractionation) that match the needs of specific biofuel producing organisms and chemical processes.
Atlantic Biomass focuses on three technical approaches to meet these objectives:
READ MORE: Article on Importance of Animal Feed Co-Products
Atlantic Biomass is currently patenting a breakthrough process to produce biofuel intermediates, such as concentrated sugars, from agricultural residue and a high temperature thermo-stabilzed enzyme used in the process. These patents will give Atlantic Biomass control of a key portion of the technology needed to produce advanced biofuels from low-value feedstocks such as perennial energy grasses or agricultural residues.
Sugar Beet Pulp Biofuel Sugar Production System
Atlantic Biomass is in the final development stage of a low-cost system that quickly produces C-5 and C-6 biofuel sugars from sugar pulp, a byproduct of commercial sucrose production. this system is designed to operate in-line at commercial sugar beet facilities.
The fundamental barriers to overcoming the biomass recalcitrance that causes low efficiencies in simple sugar production from complex carbohydrates include:
1) limited enzyme access to biomass components within the cell wall matrix, and
2) inhibition of the conversion processes by conversion products.
Atlantic Biomass, working with sugar beet pulp, has developed a proprietary enzyme process that overcomes these barriers, the Sequential Enzymatic Pretreatment and Saccharification System. With this system very high percentages of sugar beet pulp are converted, and in the future other low-cost field crops and agricultural residues will convert into C-5 and C-6 sugars suitable for biofuel production using fermentation or other biochemical conversion technologies.
Research reported in the December issue of the American Society of Microbiology’s journal Applied and Environment Microbiology on the development of a thermostable enzyme opens the way to a new pathway for low-cost biofuel production using sugar beet pulp as feedstock. (“Thermal Stabilization of Erwinia chrysanthemi Pectin Methylesterase,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Dec. 2009, pp. 7343-7349, Vol. 75, No. 23).
Biofuel Production System
Atlantic Biomass is also working on the development of a portable biofuel production system in conjunction with Encore Bioenergy LLC called “Follow-the-Crop”. Instead of bringing biomass to biorefineries, the bioconversion technology will go to the crops. Following the model of combines that follow the harvest season, “Follow-the-Crop” modules will be deployed nationwide as energy grasses and crops are harvested.
By creating a viable market for environmentally suitable “energy” grasses and agricultural residues grown in stands as small as 10 acres, the deployment of this system would improve the income of small and medium growers. This positive impact would greatly help rural economies throughout the country.
About the Company
Atlantic Biomass Conversions, Inc. is a “C” corporation incorporated in the state of Delaware. Atlantic Biomass is registered to do business in the State of Maryland. Company headquarters is in Frederick, Maryland. Atlantic Biomass has won two competitive State of Maryland venture fund programs: a Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) awarded for enzyme development work and a Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) award was used for scale-up studies at the University of Maryland/College Park. Atlantic Biomass also has been awarded a National Science Foundation STTR competitive grant for $150,000.
Robert Kozak, the President of Atlantic Biomass, came to the biofuel arena after working in the automotive emissions business with firms such as Sun Electric/Snap-On, in government agencies including the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and consulting for states including California and New Jersey, and for the US Trade and Development Agency in Mexico City.