Collaboration to Scale-Up Sweet Sorghum for Ethanol

CeresLogoSmooth Ceres, Inc., an agricultural biotechnology company, and Brazilian energy company Raízen S.A., today announced the signing of a multi-year collaboration agreement to develop and produce sweet sorghum on an industrial scale.

Under the collaboration, the companies will each contribute in-kind services and resources and share in the revenue from the ethanol produced from Ceres’ sweet sorghum above certain levels. This season, Raízen has planted Ceres’ sweet sorghum evaluation in a single location and plans to expand to multiple mills in the seasons to come.

Sweet sorghum can be grown to complement existing feedstock supplies and extend the operating season of Brazilian sugarcane-to-ethanol mills. In addition to sweet sorghum, Ceres markets high biomass sorghum to mills and other agri-industrial facilities for use in generating electricity, heat and steam in Brazil. In the U.S., Ceres is marketing improved forage sorghum hybrids to dairies and livestock producers.

Boeing, Embraer Open Biofuel Research Center

boeing1A new research center will look to establish the aviation biofuels industry in Brazil. Aviation manufacturers Boeing and Embraer opened a joint sustainable aviation biofuel research center in the South American country.

At the Boeing-Embraer Joint Research Center in the São José dos Campos Technology Park, the companies will coordinate and co-fund research with Brazilian universities and other institutions. The research will focus on technologies that address gaps in creating a sustainable aviation biofuel industry in Brazil, such as feedstock production, techno-economic analysis, economic viability studies and processing technologies.

“Boeing and Embraer, two of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, are partnering in an unprecedented way to make more progress on sustainable aviation biofuel than one company can do alone,” said Donna Hrinak, president, Boeing Brazil and Boeing Latin America. “Brazil, a pioneer in the sustainable fuels industry, will play a leading role in establishing the biofuels industry and helping meet aviation’s environmental goals.”

“Our purpose is to support work on developing and maturing the knowledge and technologies needed to establish a sustainable aviation biofuel industry in Brazil with global reach,” said Mauro Kern, executive vice president, Engineering and Technology, Embraer. “Brazil has shown its potential and is already a benchmark for the clean-energy industry, having created very successful ethanol and biodiesel industries.”

This joint research center is the latest in a series of collaborative efforts by Boeing and Embraer, and Brazilian partners on sustainable aviation biofuel.

Brazilian Ethanol Producers Praise EPA Delay

unica1International ethanol interests are weighing in on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to delay finalizing 2014 volume standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) until next year. Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) President Elizabeth Farina is glad to see the EPA step back from proposed advanced biofuel targets, a large portion of that fulfilled by sugarcane ethanol.

“In 2013, 15 percent of America’s advanced biofuels – 435 million gallons – came from Brazil, delivering at least a 50 percent reduction in emissions compared to gasoline. Slashing the 2014 renewable fuels standard target would have fundamentally threatened both America’s supply of low-carbon fuel and the Obama Administration’s emissions reduction goals.

The Brazilian sugarcane ethanol industry has collaboratively worked with the U.S. to lower emissions through the RFS for over seven years, and while we’re relieved this decision doesn’t roll back environmental gains made over that time, EPA has missed a golden opportunity to increase the volume of cleaner fuel flowing to American drivers.”

Farina went on to say she still encourages the EPA to publish the 2015 RFS targets as soon as possible so advanced biofuel producers have clarity on production targets before the season starts.

UNICA: Sugarcane Ethanol Good for Environment, Drivers

unica1A new report from South American sugarcane growers shows ethanol benefits the environment and drivers. According to the Brazil-based Union of the Sugarcane Industry, UNICA, which represents those producing sugar, ethanol and bioelectricity, says that ethanol uses 90 percent less greenhouse gases than gasoline (translation courtesy of Google translator). The group points to data after a long dry period this year that impacted sugarcane production, and thus, ethanol production, when carbon dioxide levels hit the worst rates since 2007.

Since CIDE (Contributions Intervention in the Economic Domain) was zeroed in gasoline prices in 2011, there was an increase in the consumption of fossil fuel and ethanol, a cleaner and renewable source of energy, lost competitiveness and consumer preference at the pump.

Produced from clean, renewable source, cane sugar, the environmental benefits of ethanol over gasoline with gains including public health are widely recognized as the improvement in air quality, particularly in metropolitan areas. Several studies show that sugarcane ethanol reduces emissions causing climate change gases by up to 90% when compared to gasoline.

Thanks to this index, the Brazilian ethanol is the only biofuel produced on a large scale in the world considered ‘advanced’ by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States.

More data shows that in the last 10 years since flex-fuel vehicles were introduced in Brazil, the country has avoided the emission of approximately 240 million tons of CO2, equivalent to three years of issuance of this gas for a country the size of Chile.

UNICA also goes on to point out that drivers can save up to 66 percent on their costs to fill up their fuel tanks using ethanol.

Report: Brazil to Lead in Biomass Power

According to a new report from GlobalData, Brazil will overtake the U.S. in biopower energy. Brazil’s biopower installed capacity will rise from 11.5 GW in 2013 to nearly 17.10 GW by 2018 when it will overtake the U.S. as the world’s leading biopower market.

Global Biopower Market – Capacity, Generation, Market Size, Major Feedstock, Regulations, global data logoand Key Country Analysis to 2025,” finds that the U.S. had the world’s largest biopower installed capacity in 2013, with 15.43 GW, but this will only rise to 16.49 GW by 2018. The country will witness slow growth due to its large existing capacity, which has saturated the market.

Harshavardhan Reddy Nagatham, GlobalData’s analyst covering alternative energy, said of the findings, “A major share of the US’ biopower capacity was installed in the 1980s and 1990s, meaning the country already had 12.82 GW by 2006, while Brazil only had 3.59 GW by that time. The nascent Brazilian market is being driven by the government, which has made it necessary for local utility service providers to obtain at least 2 GW of installed biomass capacity through auctions annually, for ten years from 2007.”

Nagatham points out that while there is a possibility of feedstock supply interruptions due to increased deforestation in certain areas, the rise in sugarcane plantations is expected to compensate for this. “The abundance of sugarcane in Brazil makes the installation of biomass technology a very viable option for power generation. Biomass projects will also generate electricity from both sugarcane waste and non-food energy crops, such as eucalyptus and pine trees.”

Biopower will face competition from other sectors, such as hydropower, natural gas and wind. The report finds the biggest challenge to bioenergy will be Brazilian utility companies’ inclination towards wind power and the large drop in wind energy capital expenditure. However, it is predicted Brazil will see a positive outlook for biopower through 2025.

UNICA’s ‘Ethanol the Complete Fuel’ Is Back

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industries Association (UNICA) has launched is next phase of its advertising campaign, “Ethanol the Complete Fuel“. The multimedia campaign will primarily run in the state of São Paulo, the ads are designed to reinforce the positive impacts of ethanol on the economy and environment. The communication strategy consists of a 30 second TV commercial, sponsorship of television and radio programs, a striking jingle, online actions and presence in social networks.

“With the resumption of the campaign we want to remind consumers the advantages and benefits of biofuel. Ethanol generates environmental, social gains and promotes economic growth significantly in over a thousand Brazilian municipalities, “said Elizabeth Farina, UNICA president.

When first released in November 2012, the campaign leveraged ethanol sales in the state of São Paulo. In one month of placement sales increased 10%. Last year, the advertising action also aired three other states: Paraná, Goiás and Minas Gerais.

“Right now, the price of ethanol is more advantageous than gasoline for the consumer, ie the 70% parity has already been achieved in some states, yet the demand for the product did not react as expected. This reinforces our diagnosis that direct contact with the public should be constant, “said Farina.

Brazil’s GranBio Begins Producing Cellulosic Ethanol

GranBio has begun producing cellulosic ethanol at its first commercial-scale plant for second-generation (2G) ethanol in Brazil. The Bioflex 1 unit located in São Miguel dos Campos, Alagoas, has an initial production capacity of 82 million liters of ethanol per year.

According to GranBio, its 2G ethanol is the cleanest fuel produced on a commercial scale in the world in carbon intensity – 7.55 gCO2/MJ, as confirmed by theGranBio 2G cellulosic ethanol plant in Brazil California Air Resources Board (CARB). The calculation takes into account factors starting with the harvest of the raw material, through inputs and energy consumption, transportation and distribution through a port in California.

“When we announced the construction of the plant in Alagoas, in mid-2012, we took the risk of an innovator and pioneer in a project with transformative potential for the biofuels and biochemicals industries,” said GranBio’s president, Bernardo Gradin. “Beyond the inauguration of a plant, this project is proof that Brazil can lead the global biotech industry based on its agricultural potential.”

GranBio cites its 2G ethanol makes it possible to increase Brazilian production capacity per acre by 50 percent using agricultural waste – straw and bagasse, without need of expanding the cane fields. The company developed a system to harvest, store and process 400,000 metric tons of straw per year for Bioflex 1, which places it among the world’s largest and most competitive. GranBio’s facility uses the PROESA pre-treatment technology from the Italian company BetaRenewables enzymes from Novozymes in Denmark and yeast from DSM in Holland.

In addition, GranBio and Caeté created a partnership for the integrated production of steam and electricity. Installed next to Bioflex 1, the cogeneration system is fed by sugarcane bagasse and lignin – a byproduct of producing second-generation ethanol. The boiler of the cogeneration system will remain in operation for eleven months of the year, or eight thousand hours, in the harvest and inter-harvest period at the Caeté plant. As such, beyond meeting the needs of the two plants, the boiler will generate excess electricity on order of 135,000 MWh/year – enough to power a city of 300,000 inhabitants – which will be sold and become a source of revenue for the companies.

DuPont Sees Cellulosic Ethanol as Good for Brazil

World Bio Markets Brasil Conference is taking place in Sao Paulo this week and Jan Koninckx, director of DuPont Industrial Biosciences biofuels business, told attendees about the company’s offering and vision for the growth of the cellulosic ethanol market in Brazil. World Bio Markets BrasilThe company is in the final stages of building a cellulosic ethanol refinery in Nevada, Iowa co-located next to Lincolnway Energy with plans to be in full commercial-scale production by the end of the year.

“As global ethanol markets continue to grow, Brazil will need innovative solutions to meet the fuel demands of its growing population and of markets abroad from existing hectares of sugar cane,” said Koninckx. “DuPont Industrial Biosciences’ cellulosic ethanol technology makes good business sense in Brazil: abundant sugar cane provides a large quantity of convertible biomass at very competitive costs. Because our cellulosic ethanol technology can utilize the leftovers from sugar cane processing, DuPont can improve the productivity of first-generation ethanol mills and increase ethanol yield without growing more sugar cane. We are engaging with industry leaders to explore options to support the growth of renewable fuels in Brazil, including, as required, increase of our regional enzyme capacity.”

Koninckx continued, “DuPont developed our advanced biofuels technology through a network of scientists and assets in laboratories around the globe in Brazil, the United DuPont LogoStates, the European Union and Asia. We are currently finalizing what will be the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Nevada, Iowa to demonstrate the company’s cellulosic ethanol technology package at industrial scale. While the feedstock at that plant will be corn stover, DuPont validated the same technology with bagasse– the fibrous matter leftover once the juice has been extracted from sugarcane – with our process yielding more than 310 liters per metric ton in our demonstration plant in Vonore, Tennessee.”

The company has a long history working in Brazil and on behalf of the DuPont, Koninckx said the company is excited for the future. The company has been in the country for nearly 80 years and currently has 2,500 employees, 12 manufacturing sites and 11 Research and Development locations. With this on-the-ground experience and their world-leading science, Koninckx said DuPont is uniquely positioned to help expand the Brazilian cellulosic ethanol industry and to develop the country and region’s growing bio-based economy.

Drought, Fires Hurting Sugarcane Harvest in Brazil

A severe drought has hit São Paulo, Brazil and has severely affected the production of sugarcane in the state. Estimates of the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) show the lose around 15 percent or almost 40 million tons of sugarcane. Another factor in crop loss has been accidental fires due to the dry conditions. This comes at a time when the country is looking to increase its national ethanol mandate to 27 percent ethanol fuel blend.

The low rainfall seen throughout this year has increased outbreaks of fires not only in the areas of cultivation of sugarcane but also in areas planted with other crops, pastures and vegetation cover. Sugarcane plantsInformation collected by the Environmental Police and other state government agencies show that by the beginning of September had already been recorded 2,981 fire outbreaks and forest fires in São Paulo – that number is 140 percent higher than the same period of 2013.

Fires are often erroneously attributed to sugarcane producers due to the process of burning straw. However, UNICA points out that since 2007 the sector has been given the Green Protocol, established voluntarily by the state government of São Paulo to end burning.

“The productive sector has made a huge effort to accelerate the end of the use of fire and significantly exceeded expected to reduce the use of controlled burning in detrash of cane sugar schedule,” said Elizabeth Farina, UNICA president.

The drought has caused people to raise concern over raising the country’s ethanol mandate but no decision has yet been made to increase, decrease or keep the mandate in tact as is.

Summit Group Building Brazilian Corn Ethanol Plant

Alden, Iowa-based Summit Group announced a project to build the first modern corn ethanol plant in Brazil during the 2014 Farm Progress Show. The project will consist of a US$140 million ethanol plant near Lucas do Rio Verde in Mato Grosso, a leading agricultural state in west central Brazil and the country’s largest producer of corn and soybeans. The project is being financed by Summit Group’s private equity group U.S. Farmland Fund and the company partnering with Fiagril and will be developed by ethanol technology company ICM and built by agribusiness company Marino Franz.

Bruce Rastetter Summit GroupI asked Rastetter “Why Brazil” and he answered that outside of the U.S. they believe this country will play the biggest role in feeding the world. “One of the interesting parts in particular about Mato Grosso is because of improved genetics they’re able to double crop. So they are able to raise the first crop of soybeans and the second crop of corn or cotton so they have increasing corn production in the middle of the continent where it is difficult to get it out. So they are embracing value-added agriculture,” explained Rastetter.

So what is the difference between the early U.S. ethanol plants and the modern corn ethanol plant that will be based in Brail? Rastetter said they are partnering with Colwich,Kansas-based ICM and CEO Dave Vander Griend has been traveling to Brazil with Rastetter and his team for a few years. While the majority of the technology will be the same with an improvement on high protein low fiber DDGs (dried distillers grains) – a just patented process for livestock feed.

The ethanol will stay in Brazil since the Government in Brazil wants to increase the ethanol blend from 25 percent to 27 percent. I also asked him about the environmental footprint of growing corn in Brazil and Rastetter said the country is very sustainable and the farms they are purchasing from have a large percentage of trees, and if they don’t, they are planting trees.

To learn more about Summit Group’s corn ethanol plant in Brazil, listen to my interview with Bruce Rastetter: Interview with Bruce Rastetter

I also had the opportunity to speak with Eric Peterson who is the president of Summit Group who talked more specifically about the value-added opportunities the corn ethanol plant will provide the community of Mato Grosso. Peterson explained the area has difficulty getting corn exports out of the region and ethanol into the region. With the new ethanol plant, the corn will be purchased locally and the ethanol and DDGs produced will then stay local – overcoming the export/import barriers of the region. This has made the project and partners very accepted in the community.

Eric Peterson Summit GroupSince the technology will provide a different type of DDGs than used in the U.S. a part of the project and because Brazilians are very used to using soy meal, they will be able to complement the soy meal with a high protein product. In addition, with the high fiber feed product they are going to run feed trials with a University of Nebraska nutritionist to learn how to best utilize the co-product.

Peterson believes there is a great opportunity to create synergistic relationships between U.S. farmers and Brazilian farmers. “When we go there we are impressed with some of their technology and how they adapt to large scale agriculture and they are quickly adopting precision technologies that we have here in the U.S. and there is no better place for people to assimilate technology than in Brazil and so I think we can learn a lot from each other.”

The plant is to break ground the next six months and to be operational 16 months from groundbreaking which will occur before the rainy season in Feb/March and will produce 50 million gallons of ethanol per year.

To learn more about the agribusiness aspect of the Summit Group’s Brazilian ethanol plant by listening to my interview with Eric Peterson: Interview with Eric Peterson

View the Farm Progress 2014 Flicker photo album.