Biofuels technology provider Stellenbosch Biomass Technologies (SBMT) is seeking both private and public investment partners to assist in the rollout of commercial cellulosic ethanol production plants in Southern Africa.
SBMT, which was launched on Friday, holds the exclusive rights to commercialise US-based Mascoma Technologies’ Consolidated Bioprocessing (CBP) conversion technology to produce bioethanol from cellulosic material in Southern Africa and to develop process technologies for local feedstocks.
Stellenbosch University is SBMT’s local research partner for technology improvement.
Cellulosic ethanol can be used in the production of second-generation biofuels from non-food lignocellulosic plant material sources, including wood and agricultural residue such as sugarcane bagasse.
The company was hoping to establish a commercial plant using this technology by 2014.
SBMT director Professor Johann Görgens on Friday said that the company was seeking potential investment from government, in the form of grants for the technological and socioeconomic benefits; through specific investments in aspects of technology development in return for royalties; or equity investments.
The technology provider wanted to be a joint-venture partner in any such commercial plants, he stated.
Executive director Casper Nice said that SBMT would have to have contracts finalised with potential partners by the end of this year, after which process development could be concluded in 2011 and a commercial plant be set up by 2014.
Görgens noted that the low-cost, technology could be custom-made for local feedstocks and that this could unlock value from underutilised lignocellulose.
Possible feedstocks included sugarcane bagasse, sorghum bagasse, straw and bran.
Further, SBMT was also considering the processing of paper sludge into ethanol, which currently showed the most attractive returns.
By turning the sludge into ethanol, companies could earn additional revenues instead of having to pay waste disposal costs, said Nice.
Meanwhile, SBMT co-founder Professor Emile van Zyl said that the adoption of this technology could hugely benefit South Africa in terms of its environmental footprint, as well as in terms of its agricultural practices.
The ethanol could eventually be converted to biofuels, which could replace some of the region’s fossil fuel use, while simultaneously generating electricity.
Further, Van Zyl highlighted that, as agricultural residue could be used in the ethanol production process, neither food crops nor land used for planting such crops would be affected.
In addition, this could boost job creation in the agricultural sector, he said.
Edited by: Mariaan Webb
Creamer Media Senior Researcher and Deputy Editor Online
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