Brazil’s largest sugarcane ethanol producer Raízen is planning to scale up production by more than five-fold at its new second-generation biofuel plant over the next two years.
The expansion would make the new technology competitive with conventional ethanol and put millions of tonnes of plant waste into use, according to a Financial Times report on 3 July.
The plant in question, located in Piracicaba in the state of São Paulo, has a capacity of 7M litres, which Raízen is set to double in 2017 and reach 40M litres by 2018.
While 40M litres was a miniscule amount compared to the 30bn litres of conventional ethanol produced in Brazil annually, Raízen CEO João Alberto Fernández de Abreu believed it would be enough to make the next-generation product cost competitive and provide further proof of the technology’s viability.
“Second-generation technology allows you to extract more value from what you have,” de Abreu told Financial Times. “You produce more ethanol in the same area. It is using feedstock that is today being wasted.”
First-generation ethanol plants convert sucrose found in sugarcane into ethanol, while second-generation technologies uses enzymes to break down waste plant materials from traditional sugarcane crushing to produce sugars, which are then used to make biofuel.
Raízen had 24 conventional ethanol plants in Brazil, but de Abreu said the company could build seven or eight additional second-generation plants to make use of the technology’s full potential.
Such an expansion would, according to de Abreu’s projections, increase Raízen’s production by up to 50%, bringing it to 3bn litres annually from the current 2bn litres.
To make this happen, the existing plant would first need to be increased in size by two and a half times, bringing production up to 100M litres a year.
“The challenge now is related to mechanical issues, it is not the technology. The technology is working,” de Abreu said.
Brazil is the second largest ethanol producer in the world after the USA.