Denmark's Danisco launched on Monday a new enzyme for bioethanol production from plant waste material and rival Novozymes said it would unveil a competing product on Tuesday.
The Danish enzymes producers, which already sell enzymes for first-generation bioethanol are now vying to supply enzymes for second-generation biofuels made from farm waste such as straw or corn cobs instead of from food crops.
Commercial production of second-generation biofuels is still a year or two away though they are seen as part of plans laid out earlier this month by U.S. President Barack Obama to boost production of biofuels in a bid to promote clean energy and reduce dependence on foreign oil for the United States.
Danisco's Genencor division launched its new product, called Accellerase DUET, at the Renewable Fuels Association's 15th Annual National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Florida, Danisco A/S said in a statement. This product is the latest generation in the company's line of enzymes used to convert biomass into sugars, a critical step in the production of cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels and biochemicals from non-food feedstocks, it said.
Novozymes, the world's biggest industrial enzymes producer, said separately its Chief Executive Steen Riisgaard would address the Florida conference on Tuesday to announce a technological breakthrough for cellulosic ethanol.
Novozymes spokesman Rene Tronborg confirmed that meant the launch of a new enzyme for second-generation biofuel production.
It is the new product that will enable to break down the cellulosic walls in straw for example, Tronborg said. Both Danish companies are rallying to be first.
Biofuel production from straw is competitive with gasoline at today's U.S. prices, Tronborg said.
Obama said earlier this month that the United States would triple the volume of biofuels it produces to 36 billion gallons by 2022 to help decrease dependence on imported oil.
The United States currently produces around 12 billion gallons annually, mostly from corn.
At the same time, however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lowered the requirement for ethanol and other renewable fuels this year to 8.25 percent of total gasoline sales from last year's 10.21 percent renewable fuel standard.
The EPA also cut the requirement for producing cellulosic ethanol this year to 6.5 million gallons from an original 100 million gallons, but said a number of companies and projects appear poised to expand production over the next several years.
The biggest U.S. ethanol maker, privately owned Poet, is building a 25-million-gallons-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant at Emmetsburg, Iowa, which it aims to start up next year with corn cobs as feedstock.
Danisco shares traded up 1.0 percent at 349.40 crowns, while Novozymes shares were flat at 539 crowns by 1112 GMT.
(Additional reporting by Teis Jensen; editing by James Jukwey)