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India, Brazil to tie up for bioenergy

According to reports, India and Brazil will forge research collaborations in the area of bioenergy. As the first step towards this, professor Bharat Chattoo from M S University (MSU) recently led an Indian delegation sponsored by Government of India’s  Department of Science and Technology to Brazil.

The two countries, which are largest producers of sugarcane in the world, are exploring collaborations ranging from land use strategies and cultivation technologies to sugarcane breeding and improvement, agronomic practices, processing technologies and use of genomics to develop new generation biofuels.

Brazil is a world leader in the production and use of bioethanol. By 2013, some 15 million automobiles in Brazil will be able to operate with gasoline or ethanol, leading to enhanced energy security and reduced dependence on oil imports.

“However, the focus now is to produce cellulosic ethanol made from biomass, known as ‘second generation’ ethanol. The emphasis of the workshop was to take a holistic view of current bioenergy research and how both the countries can benefit by joining forces in this important area,” Chattoo, who led the Indian delegation that included directors of   Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and representatives from  Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratories, told TOI.

Around 50 scientists from Brazilian institutes and universities under the leadership of professor  Telma Franco attended the two-day deliberations at  University of Campinas, Sao Paulo Brazil.

“The two-day workshop recognized that although both Brazil and India are world’s largest sugarcane producers, Brazil produces ethanol, sugar and electricity from sugarcane whereas India produces little ethanol and consumes almost all its sugar production,” says professor Franco.

A partnership between the two countries can help Indians know all the products that can be obtained from sugarcane, which can become an important economic source for the country and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions generated by burning oil. Prompted by increase in oil prices in 1970s, Brazil introduced a programme to produce ethanol for use in automobiles in order to reduce oil imports. Brazilian ethanol is made mainly from sugarcane.

Pure ethanol (100% ethanol) is used in approximately 40 per cent of the cars in Brazil. The remaining vehicles use blends of 24 per cent ethanol with 76 per cent gasoline.

“About 47% of Brazil’s energy comes from renewable resources. Brazil consumes nearly 4 billion gallons of ethanol annually. Of the 27 billion litres of ethanol Brazil produces each year, it exports a third, mainly to Japan and Europe,” says Chattoo, adding that the value of crude oil and LNG imports into India in 2010-11 was around US $ 98 billion, impacting in a big way, the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

“A close interaction between researchers, policy makers and industries is required for making second generation biofuel a reality in order to ensure energy security of India,” adds Chattoo.

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