GranBio: Biofuels Digest’s 2014 5-Minute Guide

January 18, 2015 |

Controlled by Gran Investimentos S.A., a holding company of the Gradin family, GranBio is a 100% Brazilian industrial biotech company that was born of the vision to bring about a green revolution capable of transforming the real potential of Brazilian biomass into energy abundance.

Created in June of 2011, the company was the first to announce a commercial second-generation ethanol plant in the Southern Hemisphere. Scheduled to begin operating in early 2014, the unit, located in the State of Alagoas, will produce 82 million liters of biofuel, which will make it one of the largest operating facilities in the world.

In January 2013, BNDESPAR, the investment arm of BNDES, became a minority shareholder in GranBio, with 15% of its total capital stock.


50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy: 2013/14, #2


Cellulosic ethanol production



The Situation

In October, GranBio CEO Bernardo Gradin said the company is close to announcing the partner for its second cellulosic ethanol plant, which will be similar in size to the 22 million gallon, $190 million facility it recently opened. He didn’t reveal specifics about the new project but says the company expects to invest $1.7 billion through 2020 in developing at least 10 more plants.

This, after opening what was at the time the world’s largest-known cellulosic ethanol project to date comes online in Brazil in record time. In September, GranBio initiated production at the first commercial-scale plant for second-generation ethanol in the Southern Hemisphere.  The Bioflex 1, unit built in São Miguel dos Campos, Alagoas, has an initial production capacity of 82 million liters of ethanol per year (21.6 million US gallons) GranBio invested US$190 million to build the plant and US$75 million on the steam and electricity co-generation system, the latter investment along with the Carlos Lyra Group’s Caeté facility.  Construction was completed in 20 months, quick as compared to any other undertaking of its size, and was managed by GranEnergia, a company also controlled by GranInvestimentos S.A.

Past milestones

In October 2014, In Brazil, Granbio and Caeté have created a JV whereby a co-generation facility is co-located at the second generation ethanol plant, fed by bagasse and lignin left over from the 2G conversion process, to produce process steam and electricity that is supplied to the grid. About 135 GWh of electricity will be sold onto the grid annually, after supplying both facilities.

In April 2013, GranBio completed the acquisition of a 25% equity stake in cleantech process development company American Process. Under the agreement, GranBio said it will have gained access to a proprietary biomass pretreatment platform that makes it possible to cost-effectively develop cellulosic sugars as a feedstock to a range of biochemicals and biofuels. Deal terms were not disclosed by the partners. The companies said that they expect to break ground on their first commercial-scale facility by the end of 2014. The companies will collaborate on a first commercial facility with API technology in Brazil, followed by one in the United States.

In May 2013, BNDES approved a $150 million loan in addition to its funding scheme for GranBio’s second-generation ethanol plant in São Miguel dos Campos in the northeastern state of Alagoas. The bank’s investment arm is buying a 15% equity stake in the company for about $300 million, which was announced in December. This first facility will produce 85 million liters of ethanol annually from bagasse.

In August 2013, GranBio and Rhodia signed an agreement to create a partnership to produce bio n-butanol. Bio n-butanol is made from sugar cane straw and bagasse, the same raw material that is used to manufacture second-generation ethanol and which is abundant in Brazil. Under the partnership, the companies plan to build the world’s first biomass-based n-butanol plant in Brazil, which will enter into operation in 2015. The plant will produce 100 kilotons per year of solvents.

Future milestones.

In spring 2013, GranBio Investimentos announced plans to invest $724.5 million in five cellulosic ethanol plants during the next few years. The first 21.6 million gallon facility in Alagoas that will use sugarcane bagasse as feedstock came online in September 2014. The first plant produces cellulosic ethanol from sugarcane bagasse and straw, and Novozymes will supply the necessary enzyme technology while Beta Renewables and Chemtex, both part of Italian chemical group Mossi & Ghisolfi (M&G), will provide other process technologies and engineering.

Next step? Think “chemicals, chemicals, chemicals.”



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Category: 5-Minute Guide

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