Finns look to cut open ethanol opportunities

A Finnish technology leader is eager to cultivate the world’s most modern ethanol manufacturing technology in Vietnam.

The Finnish embassy’s Finland Trade Centre (Finpro) reported that Chempolis Ltd, which provides sustainable solutions for biomass, paper, biofuel and chemical industries, was exploring opportunities to set up a joint venture with Vietnamese partners. The move would transfer third generation cellulosic ethanol manufacturing technology, also the world’s most modern technology of its type.

The technology is being applied in Finland and there are active negotiations ongoing to utilise it in China and Thailand. Some €100 million ($142 million) will be needed to build a plant with an annual capacity of 50,000 tonnes of ethanol.

The project will use such non-food raw materials as straws, bagasse, empty fruit bunch, corn stover, cassava stem and other agricultural residues to make ethanol, which is then mixed with gasoline before being marketed.

Finpro’s senior consultant Kieu Thi Nam Phuong said that Chempolis’s Asia-Pacific president Pasi Rousu had worked with the ministries of Science and Technology and Industry and Trade on this project.

“The ministries are strongly interested in the project and whole-heartedly support it,” Phuong said, adding that local partners for constructing and operating the project’s plants could be private or state-owned.

According to Finpro, Vietnam is home to two operating private ethanol manufacturing plants and three state-owned plants of the type, which are yet to become operational.

These five plants are of the first generation ethanol manufacturing technology, which uses cassava as raw material. Moreover, they have to use other fuels like coal, which also can cause environmental pollution, for operations. Due to rapid increase in cassava prices at the marketplace, these facilities are expected to generate humble profits.

However, Rousu said that under his firm’s proposed project, Chempolis had developed third generation formicobio technology for producing cellulosic ethanol for biofuels. Technology is effluent free and self-sufficient in terms of energy and it also avoids the main problems associated with other technologies developed for non-food raw materials and represented a true third-generation technology for producing liquid biofuels.

“The technology enables co-production of biochemicals, such as acetic acid and furfural, which are used as a raw material in the production of paints, adhesives, and plastics, and as a solvent and raw material for resins.

“Additionally, combustion of co-produced solid biofuel can generate all the energy needed in biorefinery, with some surplus to be used in existing ethanol production,” he said.

“Therefore, the economics is clearly much better than in the first generation or second generation ethanol manufacturing technologies.”

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