Brazil’s Petrobras will partner with BIOeCON, a Dutch company, on the development of a new process for enhanced conversion of lignocellulosic biomass such as sugarcane bagasse into chemicals that can be used to produce green plastics, or further transformed into next-generation advanced biofuels.

The new technology, called BiCHEM (Biomass Chemical Conversion), was developed by BIOeCON with high potential for biofuels production for diesel blend content with superior energy density when compared with ethanol.

Petrobras and BIOeCON will work together to further develop this technology and establish proof of concept on pilot and demonstration scales. The first part of this work, including the pilot phase, will be performed in The Netherlands, while the demonstration plant is envisioned to be constructed in Brazil.

In 2008, Petrobras, through its research center (Cenpes), signed a cooperation agreement with start-up KiOR—a joint venture between Khosla Ventures and BIOeCON (earlier post)—to use KiOR’s Biomass Catalytic Cracking (BCC) process to produce second-generation biofuels from sugarcane waste. (Earlier post.) BCC catalytic pyrolysis technology converts lignocellulosic biomass into a bio-oil product that can be further upgraded to transportation fuels and chemicals.

BiCHEM is BIOeCON’s second technology. BiCHEM uses a recyclable, inexpensive solvent to dissolve cellulose and hemicellulose into their constituent sugars. These sugars are then hydrogenated and converted into base chemicals to produce amongst others green plastics, or transformed into next generation advanced fuel additives such as high cetane biodiesel.