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The potential for firstgeneration ethanol production from sugarcane
José Goldemberg, University of São Paulo, Brazil Patricia Guardabassi, Brazilian Reference Center on Biomass, São Paulo, Brazil Received June 18, 2009; revised version received September 17, 2009; accepted September 22, 2009 Published online December 9, 2009 in Wiley InterScience (; DOI: 10.1002/bbb.186 Biofuels, Bioprod. Bioref. 4:17–24 (2010) Abstract: Ethanol production from sugarcane, mainly in Brazil, on the basis of first-generation technology (22.5 billion liters, in 2007/2008 season, in 3.4 million hectares) replaces 1% of the gasoline used in the world today and is highly competitive in economic terms with ethanol produced from other crops in the USA and Europe. In this paper we discuss the potential for sugarcane ethanol expansion from two angles: (1) productivity gains which would allow greater production in the same area and (2) geographical expansion to larger areas. The potential of first-generation technology for the production of ethanol from sugarcane is far from being exhausted. There are gains in productivity of approximately a factor of two from genetically modified varieties and a geographical expansion by a factor of ten of the present level of production in many sugar-producing countries. The replacement of 10% of the gasoline used in the world by ethanol from sugarcane seems possible before second-generation technology reaches technological maturity and possibly economic competitiveness. © 2009 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd Keywords: ethanol; productivity; first-generation



n technical grounds, ethanol is a good fuel for Otto cycle engines, either as a substitute for gasoline in slightly adapted motors (as an additive at levels up to 25%), in specially designed regular motors for pure ethanol, or in any mixture in ex-fuel cars. It is produced from agricultural products and does not have


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