Bio-based ethanol not for chem feedstock - GPIC

04 December 2008 12:43  [Source: ICIS news]

DUBAI (ICIS news)--Bio-based ethanol as an alternative feedstock for the global petrochemical industry was rejected by Abdulrahman Jawahery, general manager of Bahrain’s Gulf Petrochemical Industries Co, on Thursday.

Jawahery, speaking at the 3rd Gulf Petrochemical and Chemical Association (GPCA) forum, said that billions of people in emerging economies still do not have sufficient food quantities.

Therefore, using sugarcane or food crops as raw materials for ethanol and subsequently, ethylene and polyethylene would only perpetuate their suffering.

Earlier, Jose Carlos Grubisich, CEO of Brazilian sugar and sugarcane maker ETH Bioenergia, had proposed that biomass and bio-based ethanol would provide a green and economical alternative feedstock for the global petrochemical industry.

“Today, the new green challenge in the petrochemical sector is both sustainability and cost competitiveness,” said Grubisich. ETH Bioenergia is the energy unit of Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht.

He added that enlarging sugarcane plantations in Brazil, without destroying the Amazon rainforest, would be the cheapest form of carbon sequestration as the crops absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.

“There is a positive net balance of 2.5 tonnes of CO2 reduction per tonne of polyethylene (PE) produced from ethanol,” Carlos Grubisich said.

GPIC's Jawahery was unconvinced of the business potential that Carlos Grubisich proposed.

“I think the growth rate of the sugarcane to ethanol and petrochemical industry will be very small,” he said.

A food versus energy debate arose earlier this year when grain prices soared to record highs.

The three-day GPCA forum ends on Thursday.

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By: Bohan Loh
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