Alkol Biotech – a Spanish research company focused on the development of new plant varieties adapted to the needs of specific biofuel markets – has started shipping of its EUnergyCane sugarcane hybrid grown in Spain. The customer, a danish provider of cellulosic ethanol technologies, will use the hybrid to test its technologies aiming to the increasingly large cellulosic ethanol in Brazil, and is receiving it as dry bagasse.
According to Al Costa, the company’s CEO, “There are over 380 ethanol plants in Brazil and all are interested in using the sugarcane crushed residue (“bagasse”) to also obtain cellulosic ethanol. In that sense, being able to say that the technology, enzyme, or whatever has been tested with real sugarcane means being the first to reach that market. And being able to receive in just a few days and at whatever amount needed instead of just a few tons after several months, means fast and cost-effective development times”
According to the company, the fact that the EUnergyCane variety grows in european territory means it can bypass the usual phytosanitary procedures involved with sugarcane bagasse regularly imported from Brazil and India, which means less costs on permits and transportation. In the case of the customer, a startup involved with enzymatic processes, it meant going from 6 months of paperwork and transportation costs to receiving the product in less than a week.
The EUnergyCane is a sugarcane hybrid grown in the company’s fields in the city of Motril in the south of Spain. It is a hybrid of naturally occurring sugarcane varieties grown for over 200 years in the south of Spain. To that end, the company is continuously improving it with the idea of farmers yto grow it in the southern belt of Europe. The next phase would be to cross it with a naturally occuring grass able to grow in colder regions in order to obtain a hybrid also able to grow in those areas.
The company will develop new sugarcane varieties with better characteristics, such as better resistance to the mosaic virus or pests, higher sugar or fiber yields, more resistance to chemicals, etc. These varieties will be then exported to sugarcane growing countries such as USA, Brazil, China, etc, and royalties charged for their use. It will also allow new chemicals such as pesticides to be tested on its growing regions, thus bypassing today’s need to test them in foreign countries where that crop is found such as Brazil. Finally, it will generate biomass for testing in Europe of 2G production methods and enzymes, thus preventing the same problem.
“Right now we are able to provide it in raw or crushed form at smaller quantities, but as cellulosic ethanol and renewable chemicals in Europe start to gain traction, we will start licensing it to farmers first in the south of Spain, and later as far north as the variety can stand. The end idea is to provide cellulosic ethanol providers with sustainable low-lignin, high-cellulose content biomass”
Alkol expects to send another 6 batches of bagasse during the harvest season which ends in April.