APLA '11: Biochem firms seek lower cost sugar – US Amyris exec

08 November 2011 01:57  [Source: ICIS news]

BUENOS AIRES (ICIS)--Companies that make renewable chemicals are looking for lower cost sources for sugar, a feedstock that typically makes up two-thirds of their production costs, an executive said on Monday.

Already, producers have much room to increase the sugar concentration in sugarcane, said Mario Portela, COO of Amyris, a US-based producer of renewable chemicals based on farnesene.

Portela made his comments on the sidelines of the 31st Latin American Petrochemical Association (APLA) annual meeting in Buenos Aires.

For example, new varieties of sugarcane can produce even larger amounts of sugar, said Luis Cihiral, business director, renewable alternatives and business development in Latin America for Dow Chemical.

In addition, the bagasse from sugarcane could become another source of sugar.

Plus, countries can simply plant more sugarcane, Portela said. Brazil, for example, still has a lot of arable land.

In Brazil, while sugarcane is out of season, farmers can grow sorghum, he said.

Looking forward, another source of sugar could come from biomass, Portela said.

However, one of the major challenges of accessing such sugar is aggregating the biomass, he said.

For even sugarcane, aggregation is an important issue. For example, sugarcane needs to be about 25-30km to a plant to be cost-effective, Portela said.

Similarly, biomass also needs to be close to the end-user, he said. "Biomass aggregation is the key critical question for the second generation of sugars," he said.

The APLA meeting ends on Tuesday.

Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives in Green Chemicals

By: Al Greenwood
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