Sugarcane to be Turned into Conventional Diesel Fuel at Brazil Biorefinery

sugarcane photo

photo: Cliff via flickr

Brazil's widely know for running a whole heck of a lot of cars on sugarcane-based ethanol. There are lot's of problems to be pointed out in growing it, but sugarcane is one thing that the country definitely has in spades. Which is why Colorado-based Amyris Biotechnologies is opening up a demonstration plant in Campinas which will convert sugarcane into diesel fuel, Technology Review reports. Not biodiesel, conventional diesel fuel: The plant will have a capacity of more than 10,000 gallons per year and will, using synthetic biology, reengineer microbes so that yeast can ferment sugar to produce hydrocarbons instead of ethanol. These hydrocarbons can then be used to make diesel fuel or other chemicals.

This diesel fuel can be used interchangeably with petroleum-based diesel in engines and in current diesel distribution systems.

Amyris hopes to begin selling this synthetic diesel fuel, as well as the other chemicals that can be produced through this process, in Brazil and potentially the US and Europe, by 2011.

It also plans on buying Brazilian sugarcane mills and ethanol plants, and converting them to run on its process.

Sugarcane Cheaper to Process Than Corn
The reason Brazil was chosen for this plant? Brazilian sugarcane is less expensive than US corn. Not only that but sugarcane processing is cheaper too—the leftover waste from sugarcane can be used to produce electricity to run the mill. Though not mentioned in the original piece, I suspect that the fact Brazil's domestic diesel refineries cannot meet demand and the fuel has to be imported may also play into Amryis' long-term thinking on this.

More: Amyris Biotechnologies

via: Technology Review
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