Uganda to produce bioethanol from cellulose

Uganda may be producing bioethanol from non-food crops within a year, say scientists.

A research programme led by the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) is using a wide range of cellulosic feedstocks such as elephant grass, cassava and wood.

The production of ethanol from cellulose is more difficult than from food crops, since it requires the complex carbohydrates in cellulose to be broken down into simpler sugars before conversion to ethanol can begin.

But since humans cannot digest cellulose, there is no danger of biofuel production competing with food crops. ‘We should not compete with food resources. That is why we are going for non-traditional food crops,’ explains lead researcher Yona Baguma.

Uganda has abundant reserves of fossil fuels, but it has yet to develop the infrastructure to exploit them.

The initial investment required for biofuel production is much lower and the time for development much shorter. NaCRRI is optimistic that the research phase will produce positive results early next year and commercial development can begin shortly afterwards.

The Ugandan Government proposes that, when fossil fuel exploitation does begin, Uganda should oblige oil companies to blend fossil oil with bioethanol, lengthening the wells’ lives as well as reducing carbon emissions.

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