Cellulosic biomass technology developer GraalBio is planning to help build Brazil’s biorefinery industry with a R$300m ($146m) investment of a new 22m gallons/year cellulosic ethanol plant to be constructed in Alagoas using sugarcane bagasse and straw for initial feedstock.
GraalBio is also developing a new type of cost-competitive biomass called Energy Cane, a cross hybrid of sugarcane varieties with selected types of grasses producing low sugar content but high fiber. An experimental site in Alagoas is expected to produce 100,000 Energy Cane seedlings by the end of the year. The company is hoping to achieve productivity target of 100 tons of dry mass/hectare.
GraalBio said the cellulosic ethanol facility will be Brazil’s first. Construction is expected to start in July and start-up of operations is expected by the end of 2013. For pretreatment and conversion of biomass, GraalBio has licensed the PROESA technology from Italy-based Beta Renewables – a joint venture between Chemtex (a division of Italian plastic producer Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi) and investment firm TPG.
Chemtex will provide engineering services, equipment and technical field services to GraalBio’s facility. Dutch firms Novozymes and DSM will provide the enzymes and industrial yeasts, respectively.
By the way, Novozymes said it has been looking for locations in Brazil to build its new enzyme manufacturing plants dedicated to support the country’s growing advanced biofuel industry.
“The location of new plants will, among other things, depend on where the industry is expected to scale up, where Novozymes’ partners are located, and where the best framework conditions exist,” says Peder Holk Nielsen, Novozymes VP.
GraalBio said it will also expand the use of its Energy Cane biomass into the bio-based chemicals field. The company is also building a pilot plant in Campinas this year for the development of new biochemical pathways using PROESA. By 2017, GraalBio said it hopes to build five facilities for the production of biobased chemicals in Brazil using modified Brazilian yeasts.