* Says takes minority stake to lend support
* Project aims to bring plant on stream in 2016
By John Acher
COPENHAGEN, April 26 Danish enzymes producer
Novozymes has joined a group that plans to build a
bioethanol and biogas plant in Denmark by 2016 as part of
efforts to ramp up industrial production of advanced fuels from
plant waste, the company said.
The other partners in the Maabjerg Energy Concept consortium
are Danish state-owned DONG Energy [DOENRY.UL} and local
utilities Vestforsyning A/S, Struer Forsyning A/S and Nomi I/S.
Poul Ruben Andersen, Novozymes vice-president for bioenergy,
told Reuters the company was making a "symbolic investment" but
had agreed with the partners not to disclose the amount.
Novozymes, the world's biggest producer of industrial
enzymes, has pinned its hopes on a take-off for production of
advanced biofuel -- also known as cellulosic ethanol -- from
plant waste, such as straw, but which is still in its infancy.
It is now one of the two biggest suppliers of enzymes for
production of so-called first-generation bioethanol which is
made from food crops, mainly corn, in the United States.
The Maabjerg plant will produce some 94 million cubic metres
of biogas, 73 million litres of bioethanol, district heating for
20,000 households and power for several thousand homes,
Straw from Danish farms would be the main raw material.
The project had earlier estimated the plant would cost more
than 2 billion crowns ($354 million) to build.
Novozymes, whose enzymes are used to break down cellulosic
biomass into sugars that can be fermented into ethanol, has
repeatedly said it would not become a producer of biofuels in
competition with its customers.
But in a conference call on the company's first-quarter
results, chief executive Steen Riisgaard said on Wednesday he
would not rule out taking minority stakes, though the policy not
to invest in fuel production assets still holds.
"Of course, if a minority stake is what gives credibility to
our case, then we have always been willing to consider small
investments to show that we have skin in the game, to get them
(partners) started," Riisgaard said.
Andersen said Novozymes' role in the Maabjerg project was to
supply enzymes and participate in the development to ensure that
its enzymes technology works well with the production process.
"There are a number of similar concepts being worked on
around the world, and we are working with other partners
elsewhere," Andersen said.
He said the sugars broken down by enzymes could be fermented
into bioethanol or biogas. "Some of the biomass is better suited
for ethanol and other parts for biogas or heat and electricity,"
The Maabjerg project, which now has a pilot plant near the
towns of Struer and Holstebro on the Jutland peninsula, would be
Denmark's second major plant for second-generation biofuels
after DONG Energy unit Inbicon's plant at Kalundborg.
A facility being built in Italy by Italian chemicals group
Mossi & Ghisolfi Group (M&G) is expected to be the world's first
industrial-scale cellulosic bioethanol plant when it comes on
stream this year ahead of rival U.S. projects.
($1 = 5.6430 Danish crowns)
(Editing by David Hulmes)