Broadcasting on 17th November and 18th November 2012 In the seventeenth
episode of the Horizons series, presenters Adam Shaw and Saima Mohsin
take a closer look at a new generation of energy crops in Brazil
and the United States, where companies are using plant biomass and
single celled plants or algae to produce fuel.
some point our traditional sources of power such as coal and oil
will run out and there is an increasing need to find alternatives.
Turning plants into power is one option. Currently more than 80
million hectares of land are planted for bio-fuels including sugarcane,
corn, palm oil and beets.
2050, if were to power the globes projected fleet of
vehicles by biofuels, we would need to deploy more than 650 million
hectares of arable land. Thats an area nearly the size of
can biofuels be grown more efficiently?
Adam Shaw heads for the Cane Technology Centre in Piracicaba in
Southern Brazil, an area forming part of the largest sugarcane growing
region in the country. Theyre now breaking down sugarcane
waste or bagasse to produce bioethanol. The challenge is to digest
cellulose the tough cell walls of green plants - and turn
it into useful sugars. It is a difficult, complex process both mechanically
and chemically and theyre looking to scale up production in
a few years.
Finguerut, Industrial Strategic Development, Cane Technology said:We
could grow not just horizontally but vertically, extracting more
ethanol from the same sugarcane, like petroleum going deeper looking
for oil, we are going deeper into the structure seeing where we
can get more sugar."
Mohsintravels to San Francisco in the United States to look at so-called
third generation bio-fuels, which are made from single-celled
plants or algae. Solazyme is working with Chevron, Honeywell and
United Airlines to develop biofuels using genetically modified algae
that feed off plant sugars in tanks. Bringing the cost down, while
ramping up production is going to be crucial.
company has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Department of Defence
to supply 550 thousand litres of bio-diesel made from genetically
modified algae and opened its first commercial facility, with funding
from the U-S Department of Energy.
Dillon, Chief Technology Officer, Solazyme said:The way the
process works is these algae will eat plant material, like sugarcane
or waste biomass and rapidly and efficiently convert that plant
material directly into crude oil.
once we have that crude oil we can then turn it into diesel fuel,
jet fuel, or any oil-based product."
Horizons series, sponsored by DuPont, airs weekly on BBC World News
on Saturday 7.00am & 2.00pm and Sunday 8.00pm and 1.00am.