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New biofuel process promises to reduce land use conflicts with food and feed sectors.

Land use conflicts in the food and feed sectors from bioethanol production are a growing problem.  Bioethanol is produced from crops such as wheat, maize, sugar beet and sugar cane.  Now an EU-funded project has succeeded in creating a second generation biofuel from agricultural residues and therefore avoids the land use conflicts with the food and feed sectors. The FP7 project SUNLIQUID is working on rolling out the technology that turns wheat and barley straw, corn stover – the leaves and stalks of maize, rice straw and the leftovers of sugar cane into ethanol. The process extracts and then converts sugars in the plant material almost entirely into ethanol.  The process could make use of around 60% of the 240 million tonnes of residual cereal straw which could be collected from the fields in Europe after harvest every year.

Using the SUNLIQUID process, 27 million tons of cellulosic ethanol could be produced from this volume of straw, which is equivalent to almost 18 million tons of petrol made from fossil fuels, according to the project. This means that around 25% of the EU´s demand for petrol predicted for 2020 could be met by cellulosic ethanol – which would help the EU exceed its target for a 10% share of biofuels in the transport sector by 2020.

The project's pilot plant has been running in Munich, Germany since 2009. Since 2012, a new large-scale facility, producing up to 1000 tons of bioethanol per year, was constructed which started operation in 2012.

The latest Mercedes-Benz BlueDIRECT cars can run on sunliquid20 – high quality petrol containing 20% bioethanol.

The total project cost is € 224 500 000 with €23 000 000 in EU funding.


Issue 47