Petrobras, through its research center (Cenpes), has signed a cooperation agreement with start-up KiOR—a joint venture between Khosla Ventures and BIOeCON (earlier post)—to use KiOR’s Biomass Catalytic Cracking (BCC) process to produce second-generation biofuels from sugarcane waste.
KiOR’s process for bio-oil production uses catalytic pyrolysis, as opposed to classic pyrolysis. Although classic pyrolysis is a simple and effective, with no high capital costs, the resulting bio-oil is of low yield and product quality. Tarry and high in acidity, the bio-oil requires significant post-treating. The BCC process also has no high capital costs, but adds a proprietary, novel catalyst technology to lower the pyrolysis temperature with a resulting improvement in the yield and quality of the end product.
The Cenpes has been studying biomass processing to generate bio-oil from sugarcane straw residues since 2006. Bench tests have already been undertaken, and pilot plant studies are currently in progress. The first semi-industrial unit tests are scheduled for 2009.