An interview with Iogen's CEO, Brian Foody and Globo Rural Magazine journalist Luciana Franco
December 13, 2013
View Original Article in Portuguese
1. You're in the cellulosic biofuels business for over 30 years, but this issue has only been discussed in Brazil recently. Are we late in this matter? Why?
The timing is perfect. It is true that globally cellulosic biofuels has been developing over the past number of years, from Research and Development through to demonstration. But now, just as the technology is going to go commercial, Brazil can reap the benefits. Cellulosic biofuels is going commercial in Italy, the United States and Brazil – all within the space of one year. Also, it is not as though Brazil hasn’t been involved in cellulosic biofuels before. Research has been ongoing in Brazil for at least a decade. So Brazil is not late to the table.
2. Iogen is a partner of Raizen for cellulosic ethanol production in Brazil. What is this partnership?
Iogen Corporation and Raizen jointly own Iogen Energy. It is Iogen Energy that will provide cellulosic ethanol technology and process designs to Raizen.
3. How do you evaluate the potential of cellulosic ethanol production in Brazil? When we reach this level?
If one looks at the volume of sugar cane bagasse, as well as the stalks and leaves, the potential for cellulosic biofuels in Brazil is enormous. Depending on harvesting practices and sustainabilioty criteria, the potential could be as much as 6 – 12 billion gallons. This volume could require $30 - $60 billion in investment. So if the investment dollars are there, Brazil’s cellulosic biofuels potential could be realized in the next 10 – 15 years.
4. The impression we have is that in the United States, cellulosic ethanol, which has received major investments , became a thing of the past, after the country discovered how to extract shale gas . This impression is true ? Why ?
This impression is not true. All forms of energy will be needed to meet the world’s growing demand – especially demand for transportation fuels. A cellulosic biofuels facility just came on line this year in Italy, and several more will come on line in the United States in 2014. As more plants are commissioned, and perceived financial risks are thereby reduced, more investment will flow into the sector, and more facilities will be built.
5. The Iongen is doing cellulose biofuels from agricultural residues such as wheat straw , corn stalks and sugar cane waste . When these fuels are used on a commercial scale ?
The fuel produced by Iogen will be used commercially as soon as the Raizen/Iogen facility is complete. This is expected in late 2014.
6. Raizen has ambitious plans for Brazil . Plans to produce 1.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2024 . There are projects at this size in other regions of the world ? Why?
We are not in a position to comment on Raizen’s specific targets, or long range plans for cellulosic biofuels. However, as mentioned above, on the whole Brazil certainly has the feedstock capacity to produce well in escess of 1.5 billion gallons at multiple plant locations across the country. Just to put things in perspective, the United States has established a goal to produce 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels by 2022. That is the most ambitious target in the world and plants are under construction now.
7. What are the main challenges that the industry faces today make possible the production of cellulosic ethanol?
Financing. Plants being built today are “first-of-kind” facilities. There are perceived technology scale-up, and thus financing, risks associated with building plants at commercial scale for the first time. So getting first plants financed, built and proven is the initial challenge. Once cellulosic biofuels plants have been built and performed successfully at commercial scale, then the future potential of celluloic biofuels in both Brazil and the United States should be unlocked.