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Low-Cost Way to Convert Sugarcane Juice into Useful Fuel

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sugarcane_JEL88_25013The company Amyris Biotechnologies opened a plant in Campanis, Brazil, with a capacity of more than 10,000 gallons a year, to demonstrate large-scale production of hydrocarbons from sugarcane processed using its engineered microbes, which will convert sugarcane into conventional diesel fuel.

The company hopes to take advantage of Brazil’s existing biofuel infrastructure, that has been focused on ethanol,to produce diesel and other chemicals to sell in the country and possibly in Europe and the United States in 2011. Brazil served as a main attraction to Amyris because it is the world’s second largest ethanol producer while the company will make hydrocarbons, not ethanol, it will use the country’s existing infrastructure for processing and growing sugarcane. Beside that, Brazilian sugarcane is cheaper than US corn, it is also a head on environmental measure, as its processing is less expensive and the leftover waste is useful in producing electric energy.

In comparison with corn which costs $1.20 per gallon, the sugarcane rate at just $0.85. The sugarcane processing is so cheaper due to the fibrous waste left after the sugars are extracted for fermentation is burned to produce electric energy. “The net energy invested in sugarcane ethanol is not very high and leads to huge gains relative to the gain from corn,” says Lester Lave, a professor of economics and codirector of the Electricity Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh.

Source: Technologyreview

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