Cetrel, the largest provider of environmental solutions for the manufacturing industry in Latin America, and Novozymes, the world’s leading producer of industrial enzymes, today announced a research partnership to turn sugarcane waste into green energy.

Using Cetrel’s know-how in waste-stream treatment and Novozymes’ biotech expertise, the partners aim to enable sugar and ethanol production plants in Brazil to turn bagasse, the waste from sugarcane production, into biogas using enzymes. The biogas can be used to produce electricity for production facilities, and surplus electricity can be sold to the market through the electric grid.

“Cetrel has been upholding environmental equilibrium within the industrial process since its origin 30 years ago. For the past few years we have driven our experience in innovative projects toward alternative bioenergy sources and means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And we're very glad to share this knowledge with Novozymes to reinforce and strengthen our technologies,” says Nei Silva, CEO of Cetrel.

“Our agreement with Cetrel is perfectly aligned with our vision to develop a bio-based society, where biorefineries convert agricultural residues and waste into energy, chemicals, and other materials, thereby substituting fossil fuels. The project also offers strong technical and commercial synergy with our efforts on advanced biofuels,”, says Thomas Videbæk, Executive Vice President, Novozymes.

Great potential of sugarcane waste

Sugarcane bagasse is a potentially abundant source of energy for Brazil. According to estimates, bagasse could meet 20% of Brazil’s energy consumption by 2020. Today, bagasse is often discarded or burned in power plants, but more energy and value could be derived by converting it into advanced biofuel and biogas.

“In Brazil there's plenty of sugarcane, and Cetrel chose it as a main subject for a thorough investigation. As a result, we have today a complete understanding of its characteristics and how it reacts, enabling us to extract the most value out of the sugarcane,” says Nei Silva.

The partnership is still in an early development stage but if successful, the technology might be commercially viable a few years from now.