Brazilian advanced biofuels producer GranBio has announced that it has started production at the first commercial-scale second-generation (2G) ethanol plant in the Southern Hemisphere. Bioflex 1, a unit built in São Miguel dos Campos, Alagoas, Brazil has an initial production capacity of 82 million litres of ethanol per annum.
According to GranBio, its second-generation ethanol is the world’s cleanest commercial-scale fuel in terms of carbon intensity – 7.55 gCO2/MJ, an index proven by California’s Air Resources Board (CARB). The calculation takes into account carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the raw material collection, through inputs and energy consumption, to transportation and distribution at a port in California.
No other fuel produced on a large scale is more beneficial for the environment and for fighting climate change than GranBio’s, the first producer of cellulosic 2G ethanol to have its carbon footprint approved by the American agency.
A US$265 million investment
To enable the project, GranInvestimentos S.A., invested US$190 million in the construction of the biorefinery and US$75 million in the steam and electric cogeneration system, the latter in conjunction with Usina Caeté, of the Carlos Lyra Group.
The construction work was finished within 20 months, a short period if compared to any other undertaking of this size. It was managed by GranEnergia, a company that is also controlled by GranInvestimentos S.A.
When we announced the construction of the plant in Alagoas, in mid-2012, we accepted the risk of innovation and pioneering in a project with transformative potential for the biofuel and biochemical industries. More than a brand-new plant, this project is proof that Brazil can lead the world biotechnology industry based on its agricultural potential, said Bernardo Gradin, President of GranBio.
Capacity to expand with the same cropland
Brazil has the potential to increase ethanol production by 50 percent using straw and bagasse alone, without the need to expand sugarcane farmland. GranBio has designed a system for collecting, storing, and processing straw equivalent to 400 000 tonness per year for Bioflex 1, making it one of the largest and most competitive plants in the world.
The GranBio plant uses the PROESA pretreatment technology by Italian company Beta Renewables (a company of the M&G Group), enzymes by Danish Novozymes, and yeasts by Dutch DSM.
First-of-a-kind CHP solution in Brazil
GranBio and Usina Caeté, part of the Carlos Lyra group, from Alagoas, partnered for the integrated production of steam and electricity. Installed alongside Bioflex 1, the cogeneration system is fed with sugarcane bagasse and lignin – a byproduct of the second-generation ethanol production process.
This is an unprecedented bioenergy solution in Brazil since it is the first time that lignin will be used for this purpose in the sugar and alcohol industry. The boiler of the cogeneration system will remain in operation for eleven months a year, or 8 000 hours, in the harvest season and off-season of the Caeté plant.
Therefore, in addition to meeting the needs of the two factories, the boiler will generate a power surplus of about 135 GWh/year – enough to supply a city of 300,000 inhabitants –, which will be marketed and become a source of revenue for the companies.
Founded in 2011, GranBio is a Brazilian industrial biotechnology company controlled by GranInvestimentos S.A. which creates solutions to transform biomass into renewable products. GranBio is the only company in this sector that operates from the beginning to the end of the production chain – from raw material to the distribution of the final product –, integrating its own technologies and those of its partners.