Sao Paulo: A U.S. biotech company is teaming up with Brazilian ethanol producers to turn sugarcane into diesel fuel in a joint venture that could churn out 3.8 billion litres a year by 2015, executives announced.
California-based Amyris Biotechnologies developed the new renewable fuel, which is similar to fossil fuel diesel and would be blended with traditional diesel, said Amyris chief executive John Melo.
Trucks toting most of the goods consumed by Latin America’s largest nation could be filled with a blend containing 50-80% of the new fuel, mixed with traditional diesel, Melo said.
If successful, the venture would allow Brazil to reduce diesel use and imports. Biodiesel made from oil seeds and animal fat is already a required component of all Brazilian diesel, although only at a blend rate of 2%, which is due to increase to 3% in July.
Amyris is considering starting similar operations in Central America and India, and has completed a feasibility study to turn sugarcane grown in the southeastern United States into fuel that would be blended into jet fuel.
“We think of Brazil as the foundation,” said Melo, who was an executive with British Petroleum before joining Amyris.
Brazil used nearly 45 billion litres of diesel last year, and consumption is expected to rise to 80 billion litres annually by 2020. Brazilian-made diesel will be competitive with traditional diesel as long as oil stays above $60 per barrel, Melo said.
Amyris owns 70% of the new Brazilian venture, while the rest is held by Brazil’s Crystalsev, which is controlled by Santelisa Vale, the country’s second largest producer of ethanol and sugar.