Last week, Brazil’s largest sugar exporter Raízen hosted the 36th and current President of Brazil Dilma Vana Rousseff at the opening ceremony for their first cellulosic ethanol plant. The plant is a bolt-on facility to Raízen’s existing Costa Pinto sugar cane mill in Piracicaba, São Paulo.

“I was the Energy Minister in the beginning of the last decade and cellulosic ethanol was just a dream or sometimes a lab experiment,” said President Rousseff. “Today we are inaugurating a 2G ethanol reality in Brazil.”

While the ceremony will serve as the formal opening, the plant has been in production for over six months. Last November, Raízen announced they had begun converting biomass like sugar cane bagasse and straw into 40 million liters of cellulosic ethanol annually at the plant.

“Raízen and Iogen are together with the common target to transform 2G ethanol into reality,” said Raízen CEO Vasco Dias. “And, today we are one of the seven plants in the world with this reality.”

The Costa Pinto ethanol plant is only the first step by Raízen to fulfill a long-term goal. The company announced late last year that it would invest nearly $1 billion USD between now and 2024 on installing second-generation ethanol plants across the country. This investment will lead to a total production capacity of around 1 billion liters of cellulosic ethanol.

“[We] will build up new 2G plants once 2G ethanol has reached [the] same or better cost performance than 1G ethanol,” continued Dias.

One thing is certain: Brazil has plenty of biomass to accommodate such an ambition. Based on current technologies and costs, sugarcane bagasse and other biomass supply in Brazil have the potential to produce up to 18 billion liters of cellulosic ethanol per year. Per our own analysis, that’s almost half of all transport fuel used by Brazil’s light vehicle fleet!

Moreover, Brazil’s sugar-energy sector lies at the heart of the country’s renewable-power industry. According to the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, the sector earned $36 billion revenues in 2012-13, when sugarcane ethanol production topped 23 billion liters. The bulk of production is sold in the domestic market as pure ethanol fuel, or blended with gasoline. Since May 2013, all gasoline sold in Brazil included a blend of 25% ethanol, which increased to 27% ethanol in March of 2014.

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Sebastian Soderberg

Sebastian leads Novozymes Biomass Activities World Wide and is based in Denmark, when not travelling. Sebastian has worked for various business areas in Novozymes including Animal Nutrition and Technical Enzymes and was part of the Acquisition Team leading Novozymes’ entry into Bio-Agriculture. Prior to joining Novozymes in 2007, Sebastian worked several years as an Investment Banker in Nordea and also a couple of years in the Smart Card industry. He has a Masters of Science in International Business and Finance from Copenhagen Business School. Sebastian is intrigued by being part of driving the creation of a new clean and sustainable energy industry.