Brazil has become the epicentre of the world’s biofuels push: so it’s no surprise that a major UK company is looking to get in on the act.
TMO Renewables (TMO), based in the UK, has announced that it has formed a joint venture with Usina Santa Maria Ltd to build a commercial production plant in Brazil that will convert sugar cane waste into cellulosic bioethanol. It will be the first cellulosic bioethanol production facility in Sao Paulo state even though Brazil is currently the second largest nation in terms of producing first generation ethanol.
As part of the venture, Usina Santa Maria will first build and operate a 10million litre second generation ethanol plant and this will then be followed by an industrial plant. It is scheduled to enter production in 2014 and will be used to provide the bioethanol needed to fuel the array of flex fuel vehicles currently available in the Brazilian market.
TMO, for its part, has been responsible for developing a pre-treatment enzyme hydrolysis and fermentation process. This includes preparing feedstock for the best possible enzyme hydrolysis, largely thanks to the use of steam with mild conditions that are ideal for the feedstock.
The process works with the feedstock pre-treated with steam inside an enclosed reactor. From there, the contents are released into atmospheric conditions which can result in rapid decompression: this helps to cause a cell rupture. At this point it can be treated in an enzymatic treatment stage that can break down the molecules and make them ready for rapid acetogenesis, acidogenesis and methanogenesis.
TMO is also working with another British company – BB2E – which supports the commercialisation of British technology and has helped build a strong relationship between the two companies.