APLA '11: Firms can squeeze more sugar from cane - US Dow director

07 November 2011 20:21  [Source: ICIS news]

BUENOS AIRES (ICIS)--Producers of renewable chemicals can squeeze more feedstock from sugarcane by developing new varieties and by extracting the sugars from bagasse, a director for US-based Dow Chemical said on Monday.

Sugarcane still has much untapped potential as a feedstock for several renewable chemicals and resins, said Luis Cihiral, Dow’s business director for renewable alternatives and business development in Latin America.

Dow and Mitsui plan to build a polyethylene (PE) plant that will use sugarcane-based ethanol as a feedstock. The plant will be in Santa Vitoria, Minas Gerais, in southeast Brazil. Production could start in 2015.

Already, sugarcane is one of the most economical sources of sugar, the feedstock to produce ethanol and several other renewable chemicals and resins, such as succinic acid, butanol and polylactic acid (PLA).

For every one unit of fossil-fuel energy, sugarcane can produce 9.3 energy equivalents, Cihiral said.

In contrast, corn can produce 1.4 energy equivalents and sugarbeets can produce 2 energy equivalents, he said.

Cihiral spoke on the sidelines of the 31st Latin American Petrochemical Association (APLA) annual meeting in Buenos Aires.

Theoretically, new sugarcane varieties can increase the crop's energy production by up to two times, he said. In addition, the bagasse in sugarcane could become another source of sugars.

Right now, it is not economically feasible to extract the sugars from bagasse. Instead, producers burn the bagasse to produce energy.

However, if companies can find a way to extract those sugars, they could increase sugarcane's energy content by about 30%, Cirihal said.

The APLA conference ends on Tuesday.

By: Al Greenwood
+1 713 525 2645

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