Ethanol produced in Brazil from sugarcane offers economic and environmental advantages when compared to other biofuels produced around the globe. Nonetheless, scientific and technological development is essential to keep ethanol production costs down and promote the sustainability of different initiatives in the area.
In order to measure the development and success of a new technology for the production of ethanol and other sugarcane products, CTBE will develop a Virtual Biorefinery. This tool will use computational simulation of processes to assess the technology’s economic, environmental and social sustainability, compared with the sector’s standard production chain.
This means that it will be possible to estimate the additional ethanol and other products produced by a new process (such as the cellulosic ethanol) in comparison with the current production system. Similar approach will allow to evaluate impacts caused by these new technologies on rentability, emission of greenhouse gases and other environmental parameters, as well as on jobs creation and income.
In this way, the anticipated success assessment of a process or technological innovation will be based on solid and consistent data. Optimization proposals of new technologies will also benefit by the use of this tool.
The following methodology will be used in the construction of the Virtual Biorefinery:
definition of standard units, considering different production chains;
establishment of a simulation platform for the assessment of economic, environmental, and social sustainability of the studied alternatives (software for computational modeling and simulation);
construction of mathematical models for the considered production units, seeking their optimization;
elaboration and adaptation of tools to evaluate profitability, economic risk and environmental and social impacts of the analyzed alternatives.
Once the Virtual Biorefinery has been constructed, it will also allow to assess the success level attained by the CTBE’s Pilot Plant for Process Development (PPDP) in the development of new technologies. The Virtual Biorefinery will be an important instrument to be used for the improvement of the Center’s research activities.
At last, but not least, it is necessary to point out that the construction of a tool for analysis, as wide and complex as the Virtual Biorefinery cannot be executed by a restricted team of professionals. It is essential to constitute a Net of Research Institutions and Companies (coordinated by CTBE) interested in the development of mathematical models to be used by the Virtual Biorefinery.
Virtual Biorefinery Flowchart