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For those who plan to make cellulosic ethanol by fermentation after breaking down the cellulose with enzymes, the cost of the enzymes has been a major factor. We see that two plants are now under construction--in both cases taking in enzyme producers as partners.

One would suspect that fine tuning enzymes and increasing production efficiency are critical to future profitability. But if they pull it off successfully, this technology will get a major boost.

In the alternative technology, the cellulose is cracked to synthesis gas and then recombined under high pressure to make crude fuel grade ethanol. This technology is more versatile and can be adapted to a variety of fuels readily. But high pressure makes it costly and inefficient. Using cheap natural gas in the same process looks more attractive. Similarly synthetic oil/gasoline may be more attractive than ethanol in this scenario.
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