Brazilian group looks into cellulosic ethanol

A group of Brazilian companies and industrial organisations will set up a joint venture to finance research in cellulosic ethanol, the Sao Paulo Industry Federation (Fiesp) says. The initiative includes Brazil's leading sugar and ethanol producer, Copersucar, the country's Sugar Cane Industry Association, Unica, and the local subsidiary of commodities giant Bunge.

Brazil's largest industrial conglomerate, Votorantim; Itausa, the holding company of Itau bank; and Brazil's Co-operatives Organization (OCB) will also participate in the project, which should be signed in the coming weeks, Fiesp director Benedito Ferreira says.

'We're raising money and the government's crop research agency Embrapa will do the technical research,' Ferreira says. 'It will also search for partners, including abroad.'

Sugarcane is seen as a competitive raw material for cellulosic ethanol as it has a lot of biomass, which is now burned to produce thermal and electric energy. Cane leaves and other parts could be used to produce ethanol instead.

Brazilian producers say that the cost of transporting raw material like grasses and wood to mills is one of the biggest problems confronting the project. But with cane, this cost is already absorbed by the mill's traditional process.

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