Highlights from World Ethanol 2009

Cindy Zimmerman

World ethanol supplies may hit a surplus next year, Brazil’s ethanol production and exports will be off due to wet weather, and biobutanol may be in the pipeline by 2013.

That’s just a few of the highlights from F.O. Licht’s World Ethanol 2009 12th annual conference held this week in Paris, France.

F.O. Licht managing director Christoph Berg told attendees at the conference that they are forecasting that global ethanol consumption next year will total 76.4 billion litres, compared to an estimated supply of 77.1 billion. “This would result in a surplus of around 700 million litres which is urgently needed to maintain the supply chain,” he said. However, Berg says global ethanol manufacturing capacity will only increase four percent this year, compared to last year’s increase over 2007 of 33 percent.

There was lots of discussion at the conference about the situation in Brazil, with wet weather crippling sugar cane production this year. UNICA President Marcos Jank reported that Brazilian ethanol production will be down six percent this year and ethanol exports will fall 34 percent.

Philip New, CEO of BP Biofuels, addressed the role of advanced biofuels and how soon we might get there. He noted that BP is working with Verenium on the development commercial production of cellulosic ethanol in the United States, while at the same time planning to produce biobutanol with DuPont in the UK by 2013. “Biobutanol can provide a door through the blend wall which I would argue is the key structural barrier to the growth of this industry over the next five to 10 years,” he told the conference.

Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen urged global leaders at the conference to work together for the future of biofuels. “The world ethanol industry must reject all the differences, divisions and diversions. We must come together behind our common agenda, take on our common threats, and put forward our common vision of producing energy, preserving the environment, and promoting economic opportunity for all the people on this planet,” Dinneen said.

Dinneen encouraged the industry to continue fighting the misinformation campaign against ethanol. “The only thing as noxious as the greenhouse gases that are the byproducts of burning petroleum products is the miasma of misinformation that the adversaries of ethanol are emitting. The two most common attacks on ethanol are shameless, senseless, implausible, and illogical,” he said.

World Ethanol 2009 concluded yesterday.

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