Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Cellulosic Ethanol’ tag

Raizen and Iogen to Cooperate for Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in Brazil

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This has been a long time in coming, and is still a ways off, but is an important step towards renewable fuels from non-food feedstocks. Rather than use the sugar that has to date been the feedstock for ethanol production in Brazil, and is otherwise use as food, this process would separate the sugars in the bagasse, or the green leaves of the cane stalks, and ferment those for ethanol. Previously this bagasse was either burned in the field before manual harvest, or more recently harvested mechanically either to be left in the field to maintain soil structure or burned in the refinery to provide electricity.

The ethanol produced from cellulose in processes like this would be a tremendous leap forward in the production of renewable fuels.

Published 18 October 2012

Raízen Group, Iogen Energy to develop cellulosic ethanol facility in Brazil

Brazilian sugarcane ethanol producer Raízen and Canada-based cellulosic ethanol fuel manufacturer Iogen Energy will collaborate together to develop a commercial cellulosic ethanol project in Brazil.

The collaboration will be the first step towards commercialization of cellulosic ethanol biofuels in the country.

Continue reading here.

By Susanne Retka Schill | October 17, 2012

Engineering begins on Iogen-based cellulosic plant in Brazil

Ottawa-based Iogen Energy Corp. announced an initial investment by Raízen Group to develop a commercial cellulosic ethanol project in Brazil. Raízen, a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Cosan SA is the world’s largest producer of sugarcane ethanol. Iogen Energy, a joint venture with Shell and Iogen Corp., operates a demonstration facility in Ottawa where it has produced over 2 million liters (560,000 gallons) of cellulosic ethanol as it refined its process since 2004.

Continue reading this article here.

Citizen Cane: Is biofuels’ future in the fields of Brazil, or the fields of home?

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It’s odd that we didn’t think much of these cane workers for the centuries when we were importing Brazilian sugar, when conditions were undoubtedly much, much worse than they are today. This has been a more common topic in the news of the last few years.

Mr. Lane proposes a series of cogent arguments why the U.S. should be more self-reliant in terms of our energy use, and some rather dubious ones on why we should not rely on Brazil and why we do not yet have a cellulosic biofuels industry here in the U.S.

Maybe it’s simply because of the age of information: now we have immediate access to the stories of people in rural areas on the other end of the globe, and the internet provides the space to tell those stories. Maybe it’s because, unlike the diminutive domestic sugar market, the burgeoning biofuels market and the already powerful corn lobby provide much stronger motivations to investigate the downsides of corn ethanol’s far more efficient competitor.

Having just returned from three months working with the cane industry in Sao Paulo, which produces 60% of their cane and ethanol, I can say that cane cutting is brutally difficult work, but work done by choice in a place where hundreds of thousands of people have no access to anything safer, smoother, or that pays better. They are not slaves; they are poor, without access to education, and without other options.

Perhaps an even more pressing set of questions is what will happen to these workers, and the Brazilian bioenergy market as a whole, as the sector becomes increasingly more mechanized and much more efficient over the next five years. These hundreds of thousands of workers will almost all lose their jobs, with one tractor replacing 80 workers. But it will also create another 15-25 jobs that pay better, require more training, and are much safer.

The increasing access to education for workers, information for cane producers and ethanol refineries, and the capital flowing into the sector from Brazil and abroad will help to streamline cane and ethanol production, shed light on best, and worst, practices, improving the industry and increasing yields per unit of land.

Many producers making the move to mechanization have not yet adopted the changed planting patterns or harvest practices that will increase their yields dramatically. The Sugarcane Technology Center (CTC) a private research firm in Sao Paulo whose associates produce the majority of Brazilian cane, is constantly at work investigating best practices and disseminating them across larger and smaller producers around the country’s center-south region.

This brings us back to why so many people advocate increased importation of Brazilian ethanol, and why we don’t have a cellulosic biofuels industry here in the U.S.:  Brazilian ethanol is much, much more efficient. In the Global Market that Mr. Lane describes, unlike the Global Village, price is king. Unlike U.S. corn, which is the recipient of enormous subsidies and is protected by a $0.54 per gallon tariff, Brazilian cane and ethanol compete on the free market, with drivers of flex fuel vehicles making a choice at the pump based on which is cheaper, ethanol or gasoline.

Our lack of a cellulosic industry is not because of “fear of the unknown,” but simply because of feasibility. Cellulosic ethanol cannot come close to competing with cane ethanol, nor with petroleum, so it does not have a presence in the market.

Yes, we should foster research and development in domestic energy, and biomass-based biofuels will likely play a part in our energy independence, along with nuclear and domestic petroleum and, most important of all, energy efficiency. We need to use less energy if we want any hope of achieving energy independence.

So while I agree with Mr. Lane’s premises, the difference is in the details. Let’s strive to nurture our own domestic energy markets, but let’s be honest about how and why we do it.

by Jim Lane

“Let me tell a story ‘bout a man named Jed /
a poor mountaineer barely kept his fam’ly fed…”

By now, if you are a devotee of vintage TV or over the age of 40, you may well be humming along to the theme song of The Beverly Hillbillies. The song told the story of how these comic hillfolk ended up owning a mansion in a swank part of Los Angeles, because of an oil strike on their land back home. It’s the dream of many of poor landowner for a long time now.


Cheap fuel! Cheap energy!

That’s what we want — or have wanted for a long, long time. Cheap fuel, and cheap food, and no questions asked.

So much of our cheap sugar comes from the cane fields of Brazil — for the Brazilians drove down the price with an efficiency that virtually extinguished the US sugarcane business. We don’t see the cane worker any more clearly than the Nigerian farmer.

We may tut-tut over reports of slavery in the industry when we see it flash across the Bloomberg Channel, or regret the conditions that every cane worker must experience, wielding a machete at high speed for hours, and days and years. The long years in the hot fields, the high prices in the company stores, the rude shacks used by the cane-workers — we might become agitated if we saw it, but we don’t see it, or rather we avert our minds rather than our eyes. It is the same with chicken farms or cattle feedlots — a 60 Minutes report might arouse our outrage for a day or two, and then we lapse into the old habit of taking the cheap price, and pushing inconvenient thoughts aside.

Read the entire article here.

The Potential for Celluloisc Ethanol in Brazil

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Jaime Finguerut, director of CTC, the private research center that is without a doubt the most advanced of its kind in the world, discusses the potential impacts of and probable time frame for the arrival of cellulosic ethanol in Brazil.

He explains that the impacts of their cellulosic ethanol production, just starting with the cellulose left over from sugarcane refining, have the same potential as the vast oil reserves recently found off the coast of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. He believes the first commercial refinery will be producing as soon as 2012.

This interview is conducted amidst the backdrop of the U.S. reducing its own cellulosic requirements from 100 million gallons to just 6.5 million gallons. The government made the reduction in recognition that the ability to produce ethanol from biomass is simply not ready for market.

Many, such as Dr. Finguerut and others in the U.S. and Brazil, are optimistic that the technology is right around the corner. They may be correct. I’ve also often wondered if the engineers working on hydrogen technologies in the 1970’s would also have said that the technology is close to being ready, right around the corner.

I’m hopeful that plant cellulose and other abundant materials will soon be efficiently convertable to forms of energy usable for transportation fuels and electricity. In the meantime, rather than pinning our hopes on as of yet impractical energy sources, we should work diligently to use less energy, giving these technologies time so they can provide power for generations to come.

Jaime Finguerut


O etanol de 2a.geração é o pré-sal da cana-de-açúcar

(2nd generation ethanol is the pre-sal of sugarcane)

(Pre-sal is the name commonly used for the vast oil reserves recently located off their Southeastern coast. Some Brazilians believe they’ve found Saudi Arabia off the coast of Rio. They may be correct, and if, in the next 10 years, as experts believe, technology can be developed to extract the oil  from 5000 m below the surface of the ocean, through perhaps 1000 m of rock salt, it will have a profound effect on oil supply in general and the Brazilian economy in particular. Dr. Finguerute is comparing cellulosic ethanol with this petroleum. He is not a man prone to hyperbole, so this is very interesting.)

O Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira, conhecido no País pela sua sigla CTC, com sede em Piracicaba, interior paulista, pretende ter em funcionamento, em 2012, sua usina de produção de etanol de 2ª.geração, que tem o mesmo valor para a cana-de-açúcar, que o pré-sal para o petróleo no Brasil, disse o gerente de Desenvolvimento Estratégico Industrial do CTC, Jaime Finguerut, em entrevista exclusiva ao INFOENERGIA. O cientista brasileiro mostra muita confiança e satisfação com o desenvolvimento do etanol de 2ª.geração, chegando a afirmar que com o conhecimento que se tem da produção do etanol a partir da cana-de-açúcar, nosso produto será de melhor qualidade, “sem dúvida alguma”.

A seguir a entrevista com Jaime Finguerut.

Como está o desenvolvimento no País do etanol de 2ª. geração?

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

May 20th, 2010 at 10:43 pm

America’s biofuel muddle

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The article I posted the other day about the increasing likelihood of far greater U.S. importation of Brazilian ethanol has garnered a number of responses on Facebook, LinkedIn, and, mostly, via email. Few seem to want to post here on my site, despite my encouragement.

What’s maybe most interesting has been the abundance of emotion, even amongst a dearth of accurate information, in several of the responses.it’s a fascinating time to be alive, and to be working in the energy sector.

Here’s some more fodder…

Coming up empty

America will have trouble meeting its ambitious goals for biofuels

Mar 25th 2010 | CHICAGO | From The Economist print edition

THE renewable-fuel standard released in February by America’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) paints an ambitious picture of biofuels’ future. It wants the amount of the stuff used as transport fuel to climb from 13 billion gallons (49 billion litres) in 2010 to 36 billion gallons in 2022, requiring by far the largest part of that increase to come from various advanced biofuels, rather than ethanol made from corn (maize). But although the future looks exciting, the present is rather grim. The EPA has been forced to slash its 2010 mandate for the most widely touted of the non-corn biofuels, cellulosic ethanol, from 100m gallons to just 6.5m, less than a thousandth of the 11 billion gallons produced from corn in 2009.

Read the entire article here.

RFS2 reduces 2010 cellulosic ethanol requirement

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Well, this is fairly important news for those of us (meganerds) who are directly involved with this whole biofuels thing.

As a bit of background, in 2007 George Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which included the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS), mandating increasing amounts of renewable fuels, almost entirely ethanol, in the U.S. gasoline supply. The standards, which mandate nearly 13 billion gallons of renewable fuels this year, and up to 36 B gals in 2022, also has substandards for cellulosic ethanol and “advanced biofuels,” which are defined as those that decrease greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% compared to gasoline. (I know, hard to believe that W. would pen a law that mandated GHG reductions, but there we are.)

These new laws, known as RFS2, do not change the overall requirements, but affect some of the environmental accounting and the substandards. First, the original RFS mandated 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol, which is ethanol that comes from the green portions of plants such as corn and prairie grasses. The problem is that the technology for these fuels still has a little ways to go, and we are not capable of producing 100 million gallons of it. RFS2 reduces that requirement to 6.5 million gallons, quite a reduction indeed.

The other change is in the assessments of environmental impacts of biofuels, mainly lifecycle analysis (LCA) of GHGs, including those from land use changes. The argument, put forth most notably in a paper by Searchinger et al.  in Science magazine, posits that when corn is diverted from the food supply and used for biofuels, the decreased supply and increased prices induce farmers in other parts of the world to plant more corn. At times this may mean clearing forest for the new crops, and rarely is agricultural land as productive, or are fertilizers and other inputs as available, as in the U.S. Therefore, the 130 or so bushels of corn from one acre of land in the U.S. that’s diverted to ethanol production can mean, for example, an acre and a half of forest cleared in another part of the world. This, Searchinger and others have argued, defeats the purpose of biofuels in that their proposed environmental benefits are undermined by this deforestation.

In the new RFS2 rulings, these land use changes are now counted in the GHG calculations for biofuels, which is a huge advantage for cellulosic biofuels that are not reported to cause these indirect land use changes (ILUCs), but a bit of a hit for corn ethanol producers. Poet LLC’s CEO, Jeff Broin argues in the article below, “we are concerned that some pieces of the rules put out by EPA today run contrary to that stated effort. Although the international indirect land use change penalty has been lessened somewhat, EPA still relied on the disproven theory when all of the data shows that ethanol production continues to improve and isn’t requiring new land.” His statement that Searchinger’s theory is “disproven” stems from the fact that tracking these land use changes is basically impossible. We can’t very well say that one particular acre of corn in the U.S. diverted to ethanol means that another specific acre of land is diverted to corn from a particular land use to make up for the fallen supply.

As the debate rages on, as I’ve said in previous posts on this site, corn ethanol does not seem to me to translate to healthy, efficient use of land, especially given the terrible effects on land and water from the way we grow corn. I am also not convinced that such large scale corn ethanol production is necessary in order ease the transition to second and third generation biofuels technologies. Finally, while I believe there is great promise for those advanced technologies, the greatest promise, in terms of efficacy and cost effectiveness, lies in the simple task of using less transportation fuel.

By Lisa Gibson

Posted February 3, 2010, at 4:22 p.m. CST

The new requirement for cellulosic biofuel production in 2010 is reduced to 6.5 million ethanol–equivalent gallons in the renewable fuels standard (RFS2), down significantly from the 100 million gallons established in RFS1, included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The U.S. EPA released final RFS2 rules Feb. 3 as media outlets, producers and others scrambled to find out how it will affect their industries.


“I think it’s a great change,” said Arnold Klann, CEO of California-based BlueFire ethanol, which focuses on producing cellulosic ethanol from waste. “It was very clear our industry couldn’t meet the standard set for this year.” He added that the new goal is easily achievable and was a good decision.


Ethanol from sugarcane also meets the standard, reducing GHG emissions by 61 percent. “EPA’s reaffirmation of sugarcane ethanol’s superior GHG reduction confirms that sustainably-produced biofuels can play an important role in climate mitigation,” said Joel Velasco, chief representative in Washington for the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA). “Sugarcane ethanol is a first generation biofuel with third generation performance.”


RFS2 rules were originally scheduled for release Jan. 1, 2009, but inclusion of new elements pushed it back. It expands the scope of the program and lays out the strategy for reaching the RFS of 36 billion gallons by 2022. Currently, the country is not on track to meet that goal, as only about 12 billion gallons of biofuels are produced annually. President Obama’s biofuels initiative, also released Feb. 3, states that the goals will be met by supporting the existing biofuels industry, while accelerating the commercial establishment of advanced biofuels by increasing communication and having a strategic plan across the U.S. government, and by employing strategic public-private partnerships.

Read the entire article here.

New Biofuels Strategy and EPA Policy: Promote Clean Energy & Green Jobs

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I agree with Mr. Dineen that there is great promise in second generation technologies such as cellulosic biofuels, and other technologies on the horizon, such as the drop in replacements for gasoline that he mentions later in the article. But I do not agree that the current, high-input, industrial production of corn in the U.S. is a system that should continue, for biofuels or any other purpose. Runoff from nitrogen fertilizers in the Midwest causes tremendous damage to the Gulf of Mexico, creating a hypoxic zone that hurts fishing industries there as well as human health along the Mississippi River Basin. Not only is its production causing considerable damage, its main end uses–as feed for cattle that are not meant to eat grain, or processed into high fructose corn syrup and other products for people–are not healthy in their consumption.

While some have argued that corn serves as a necessary bridge to biofuels feedstocks that do not compete with food or even agricultural land, I see no reason why those technologies cannot continue to be developed in the absence of a corn ethanol industry. The Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) Dineen discusses mandate increasing amounts of ethanol from these advanced feedstocks, though it is doubtful that we will be able to meet the 2010 standards, the first year that they take effect, of 100 million gallons. Those involved in the corn ethanol supply chain would be more than happy to have that standard waived, allowing those 100 million gallons to be supplied with their product. This does nothing to move us closer to those  biofuels that do not compete with the food supply or even prime agricultural land, are much healthier for the environment, and create more jobs in rural America.

Bob Dinneen

President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA)

Posted: February 4, 2010 06:42 PM

With two important policy announcements, the Obama Administration is putting the nation on track to increase its production and use of clean-burning, American-made biofuels.

That’s good news for all Americans who care about protecting the environment, combating climate change, generating good-paying jobs, reviving rural communities, and reducing our dependence on imported petroleum.


Second, the Administration understands that the nation needs every proven or promising biofuels technology, from existing corn ethanol to the newer cellulosic (non-grain-based) technologies and the most visionary “next generation” technologies. New or old, we need them all. Yes, it is essential that all the newer technologies – from those closest to fruition to those that are still years from commercialization – have every opportunity to succeed.

Read the entire article here.