Spanish Bioenergy Association (AVEBIOM)

A new and multi-functional variety of sugar cane adapted to Spanish conditions

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Spanish Bioenergy Association (AVEBIOM)

A drought-resistant variety with 30% more fibre

Al Costa, head of the Alkol consultancy, champions the return of sugar-cane growing to Spain as it is a highly versatile raw material for bioenergy and ideal conditions for it exist in many regions of the country.

A drought-resistant variety with more fibre

More than 80% of the area planted in Spain is taken up with the now outdated NC0310 variety, which arrived from South Africa in 1945. This variety is not resistant to the “mosaic virus”, which causes leaf surfaces to become discoloured and makes it less competitive in the world markets for sugar and ethanol.

The main feature of this new variety is its greater resistance to drought, which allows it to flourish in areas of Spain where other cane crops could not survive. The second significant feature is its higher fibre content – up to 30% more – a feature which opens up new economic opportunities based more on the cane’s pulp than its juice.

A waste product with a future

Until very recently, cane-pulp was considered to be a waste product and its disposal was seen as a problem. However, the discovery of a new, profitable use has made it at least as lucrative as the traditional ethanol/sugar pairing.

The pulp can be used, without any form of processing, to generate electricity. Converted into pellets, it can be used to produce electricity; it is an excellent source of second-generation ethanol; it can be used as animal feed; and it is a good source of compounds, such as methanol and furfural, with many industrial applications. According to Mr Costa, the new variety is expected to produce as much as 200 tonnes per hectare. And because of the hours of sunshine enjoyed in Spain – more even than in many areas of Brazil, where it also rains more – this country is ideal for growing the crop.

The cane pulp has an energy content of 3,100 Kcal/Kg at 15% humidity and every hectare of cane can produce up to 7,200 kW.

More than just energy

Compared to other renewable energy options, which only produce energy, biofuels are also the source of the monomers necessary to produce plastics which can replace those made from fossil fuels. In Brazil, Molico brand milk tops and many of Coca-Cola’s PET bottles are derived from cane.

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