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Bioethanol: Science and technology of fuel alcohol (kindle)

Bioethanol: Science and technology of fuel alcohol

   Global ethanol production in 2008 was 65.7 billion litres and will soon exceed 100 billion litres (Fig 2.1), with the largest increases in the US and Brazil. Production statistics are available from FO Licht (2007), Pilgrim (2009), USDA-ERS (2008) and Renewable Fuel Association.

   Brazil was the first country to embrace large-scale bioethanol production, via their government’s Proalcool programme that was initiated in 1975 to exploit sugar cane fuel alcohol as a gasoline substitute in response to rising oil prices. Brazil is now the world's second biggest producer with around 30 billion litres/annum (2008) from sugar cane and is the world's biggest exporter of fuel ethanol. The number of sugarcane bioethanol plants in Brazil will increase to over 400 in the next few years and production is expected to reach 37 billion litres/year (from 728million tons of sugar cane) by 2012-2013 (Amorim, Basso and Lopes, 2009; Basso and Rosa, 2010).

   China is already the world's third largest producer of ethanol (90% from corn) and has ambitious future growth targets for bioethanol from second generation waste biomass. Current Chinese targets for bioethanol (10million tons by 2020) are considered conservative (Yan et al, 2010). Current bioethanol plants in China employ corn, wheat and cassava, but sweet sorghum and sugar cane have future potential.

   In the US, The American Energy Policy Act of 2005 created a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that required refiners to “use an increasing percentage of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel in their fuel mix, as well as creating new incentives for ethanol production from sugar, cellulose and other non-traditional feedstocks”. Subsequently, in 2009 the USA consumed around 42 bn litres (11.1 billion gallons) of ethanol, and that amount is expected to rise significantly in future years due to US federal mandates. The Renewable Fuel Standard was expanded when the US Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, requiring the use of 9 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2008, growing to more than 15 billion gallons in 2012 and 36 billion gallons (136.2 billion litres) by 2022. Importantly, a ceiling of 15 billion gallons (56.8 billion litres) has been set for the amount that can be produced from corn starch (see US EIA, 2008). Additional targets have been set for 80 billion litres of biofuels from other conventional feedstocks (such as sugar cane) as well as non-conventional cellulosic feedstocks.

   In Brazil, bioethanol is now the preferred road (and potentially aviation) transportation fuel. Bioethanol production is also accelerating in other South American countries and information is available covering statistics, production, sustainability, feedstocks, governmental policy and other information for bioethanol in Latin America.

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