Building the world's most advanced enzyme plant for biofuel

In NNE's biggest offshoring project ever – transferring prefabricated modules from China to USA – we designed and implemented the world’s most advanced enzyme platn for biofuel for Novozymes.

On 30 May 2012, Novozymes, one of the world’s largest enzyme producers, inaugurated a new plant in Blair, Nebraska. The plant produces world-leading enzymes, a key technology component for the biofuel market and increases Novozymes' global production capacity with 1,600 m3 of fermentation capacity.

With oil supplies becoming scarce and the environment suffering under the CO2 emissions from accelerating gas consumption, there is a huge need for more sustainable alternatives. One of these alternatives is biofuel, which can lower CO2 emissions up to 90 percent compared with gasoline and significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Setting new records

With an investment of USD 200 million and nine buildings with a floor space of 12,700 m2, the facility is the largest enzyme plant dedicated to biofuel in North America. In addition, its sheer size combined with front-line, large-scale process equipment makes it the world’s most advanced enzyme plan for biofuel.

For NNE, the plant also represents a record as the biggest offshoring project in the company's history. A total of 45,000 m3 were shipped from China to the US – equivalent to 1,300 20’ containers.

A watertight plan – almost

An offshoring project of this calibre requires meticulous planning to make everything come together logistically and timewise.

NNE established a 9,000 m2 assembly yard in Ning Bo, 120 km south of Shanghai, where complete module frames were erected, tank equipment welded and extensive piping mounted for each module. Meanwhile, construction preparations were carried out on the site in Blair to make sure it was ready when the modules arrived.

Once completed, the modules were transported by ship to New Orleans. Each container and module was labelled to identify exactly where – and when – they fit in with the rest. From New Orleans, the modules were transferred to barges to float up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to Blair in Nebraska, where a special dock was built.

But then Mother Nature interfered. That particular winter, Montana had seen an extreme amount of snow and combined with above-average rain in the spring, the US authorities had no other choice but to open the dams and flood several cities along the Missouri River. That included Blair and the newly built dock.

Back on dry land

As a result of the flooding, the modules were stuck in New Orleans until the river was reopened. NNE was able to arrange for some of the components to be transported by road, but despite our best efforts the flooding set us back a couple of months.

During summer 2012, all process equipment was installed and commissioned and the first batches were harvested with a good result. The plant is in compliance with federal, state and local regulations and codes in Nebraska, USA and now supplies enzymes to some of the first advanced bio refineries, as well as to the existing industry.

Quick facts


Novozymes Blair Inc.



Project duration

Apr. 2008 – Sep. 2012

Total investment cost

USD 200 million

Services provided

Basic design, detailed design, project management, purchasing, contracting, construction management, supervision, commissioning and start-up