Ottawa enzyme maker Iogen Corp. and fuel company Shell have agreed to speed up their joint-venture work on cellulosic ethanol made from wheat straw, using "significant" extra funding from Shell.
The two companies, which operate the 50-50 joint venture Iogen Energy, on Thursday announced a "significant incremental commitment" for an undisclosed sum from Royal Dutch Shell to fund the joint firm's research and development activities until mid-2012.
The added funding is meant to "accelerat(e) the commercial deployment" of Iogen Energy's process for making ethanol from agricultural residues such as straw.
Over the last 12 months, Iogen Energy has made over 640,000 litres of cellulosic ethanol from wheat straw, the companies said, and Iogen Energy's Ottawa demonstration plant is running on a "continuous basis" using its "proven" R7 technology release.
Shell's further funding is earmarked to develop and demonstrate Iogen Energy's next two major technology releases, R8 and R9, which Iogen said will "significantly reduce the capital and operating costs per gallon of cellulosic ethanol."
Shell said in the release that its work through Iogen Energy is a "key part" of its investment and development program in next-generation biofuels from non-grain feedstocks. The Iogen fuel "promises to reduce (carbon dioxide) emissions by greater than 80 per cent compared to gasoline."
Shell has pledged to work toward "sustainable, advanced biofuels that take (carbon dioxide) out of the transport fuels sector and diversify supply over the next 20 years," Luis Scoffone, vice-president of alternative energies at Shell, said in a release Thursday.
"We believe accelerating the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol will help us to achieve that goal."
"Iogen Energy is positioned for successful commercialization of its world-class technology as we work toward meeting the demand for a low-carbon transportation fuel," Iogen Corp. CEO Brian Foody said in the same release.
Iogen, which makes enzymes for the pulp, paper, textile and animal feed industries, has long proposed to build a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant somewhere in Saskatchewan, as an expansion on the demonstration-scale plant at Ottawa.
Iogen in June 2009 signed a "non-binding indication of intent" for the proposed redevelopment of Domtar's pulp mill at Prince Albert, Sask. as a commercial-scale ethanol and bioenergy facility using cereal crops' straw.
The Prince Albert Daily Herald newspaper reported in December last year that talks between Iogen and Montreal-based Domtar had "stalled" but were not over.