EU Awards €1.6M Contract to Novozymes to Support Development of Cellulosic Ethanol from Sugarcane Bagasse
The European Commission is supporting a Novozymes project to convert sugarcane by-products into bioethanol with a €1.6 million (US$2 million), 2-year contract. Sugarcane is already used to make bioethanol in Brazil, but the residue material from the crushed sugarcane (bagasse) has so far only been used for generating steam for heating or distillation internally in the sugar production.
In connection with this project (earlier post), Novozymes is establishing a research unit in Curitiba, Brazil, supported by research colleagues in both the US and Denmark. Novozymes has been working to develop enzymes to convert agricultural by-products into bioethanol since 2001. The research effort is the largest in Novozymes’ history, with about 150 employees working towards the conversion of biomass to ethanol on different projects throughout the world.
Novozymes’ partner on the project, Brazilian CTC, Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira, is the leading R&D center for sugarcane in the world and has more than 40 years working experience in all aspects of sugarcane production and processing.
This is a huge acknowledgement from the European Commission of our development of cost-effective bioethanol. Novozymes has promised that by 2010 we’ll deliver enzymes for the conversion of biomass from agricultural by-products into ethanol for large-scale production. And we’re going to keep that promise. We’re already well on the way, but with this support from the Commission we’ll work towards getting much more from less. With the current sugarcane-based ethanol we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80–90% compared to gasoline. By also utilizing the bagasse by-product, we’ll be able to increase the yield per acre by about 50%.—Steen Skjold-Jørgensen, Vice President for Bioethanol R&D
Last year Brazil produced 6 billion gallons (about 23 billion liters) of bioethanol from sugarcane. 1 billion gallons were exported and the remaining 5 billion gallons were used to supply fuel to Brazil’s national transport sector. 90% of new cars in Brazil are flex-fuel cars that can run on fuel mixtures containing up to 100% bioethanol. In this way, more ethanol is used in Brazil than gasoline and Brazil’s current production of bioethanol has made the country independent of imported oil.
Every ton of sugarcane results in 0.3 tons of bagasse, and it is this residue that Novozymes will utilize and—together with the sugar component—convert to fuel.
The bagasse project is being run in collaboration with Novozymes’ researchers in Denmark, the US and Brazil together with a number of external partners besides CTC; Lund University in Sweden; and the Federal University of Paraná in Brazil.