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Petrobras to invest US$400 million in biofuels research

Petrobras Biocombustível's head of Technology Management, João Norberto Noschang Neto, talked about Petrobras' biofuels development research projects during the Ethanol Summit in São Paulo this Tuesday, June 7 2011.

Speaking as a member of the panel on "Cellulosic Biofuels: has the future arrived?", he stressed the company’s strong commitment to invest in biofuels development, with some $400 million earmarked in the 2010-2014 Business Plan.

According to Mr. Norberto, biofuels development presents a major challenge on a global scale, and Petrobras is determined to maintain its leading position. “We are using a number of approaches in our research, including the reuse of glycerin (a byproduct of biodiesel production), rejuvenation of mature fields, and even cellulosic ethanol and aviation biofuel development,” he said.

He added that projects were already under way to exploit microalgae for producing oil feedstock for biofuels and to develop biotechnology platforms. “We are also focusing on process sustainability and analyzing the biodiesel and ethanol life cycle throughout all production phases.”

He pointed out that one of the challenges facing the biofuels sector is vertical growth in productivity. “Research has already shown that it is possible to improve productivity, even in first-generation ethanol, by extending harvesting periods, storing cane and rotating cane with other crops.”

The company is also prioritizing the development of second-generation biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol produced from cane bagasse, with an expected increase in productivity of 40%. “Petrobras began its biofuels project in 2004, and in order to accelerate the process, we joined forces with Novozymes for their enzyme technology, and KL Energy to collaborate on testing and mature technology development,” said Mr. Norberto.

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