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Ethanol From Sugar

Ethanol From Sugar

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Published by Linden Row
Explores the cost, processing and barriers of producing Ethanol from sugar beets and sugar cane in the U.S.
Explores the cost, processing and barriers of producing Ethanol from sugar beets and sugar cane in the U.S.

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Published by: Linden Row on Apr 02, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/07/2012

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http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/pub/sep06/ethanol.htm
Ethanol from Sugar
What arthprospects for U.S.sugar co- ops? 
By James Jacobs, Ag Economist
 USDA Rural Developmentore than half of world ethanol production isproduced from sugar and sugar byproducts,with Brazil being by far the world leader.Currently, there is no commercial productionof ethanol from sugarcane or sugar beets in the UnitedStates, where 97 percent of ethanol is produced fromcorn.Technologically, the process of producing ethanol fromsugar is simpler than converting corn into ethanol.Converting corn into ethanol requires additionalcooking and the application of enzymes, whereas theconversion of sugar requires only a yeast fermentationprocess. The energy requirement for converting sugarinto ethanol is about half that for corn.However, the technology and direct energy costs arebut one of several factors that determine the feasibilityof ethanol production. Other factors include relativeproduction costs (including feedstocks), conversionrates, proximity to processing facilities, alternativeprices and government policies, facility construction and processing costs. As other countrieshave shown that it can be economically feasible to produce ethanol from sugar and other newfeedstocks are researched, interest in the United States in ethanol production fr om sugar hasincreased.In response to the growing interest around sugar and ethanol, USDA released a study in July
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http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/pub/sep06/ethanol.htm
2006 titled:
 “
The Economic Feasibility of Ethanol Production from Sugar in the UnitedStates
” 
(on the internet at: www.usda.gov/oce/). The report found that at the current marketprices for ethanol, converting sugarcane, sugar beets and molasses to ethanol would beprofitable.
 “
 At this summer
’ 
s unusually high price, I can conclude that it
’ 
s economically feasibleto produce ethanol from sugarcane and sugar beets,
” 
USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins said.However, there is not a clear-cut case that U.S. sugar will be commercially converted toethanol anytime soon. This article will explore some of the economic and technological factorsfor the potential of sugar-based ethanol production for farmer-owned cooperatives.
U.S. sugar industry
 Sugar beets are an annual crop grown in 11 states across a variety of climatic conditions, fromthe hot climate of the Imperial Valley of California to the colder climates of Montana and NorthDakota. Sugar beet byproducts include beet pulp, which can be sold for animal feed, andmolasses, which is also sold for animal feed or further processed to extract more sugar.Sugarcane is a perennial tropical crop produced in four states: Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana andTexas. Byproducts of sugarcane processing include molasses and bagasse, the fibrous materialthat remains after sugar is pressed from the sugarcane. Bagasse is often burned as fuel tohelp power the sugarcane mills.Total U.S. sugar production fell by more than 20 percent from 2000 to 2006 due to low pricesand structural changes in the industry. Production declined significantly or ceased altogether infive states.Sugar beets have gained a greater share of U.S. sugar production over the past decade, nowaccounting for 58.8 percent of the nation
’ 
s sugar output while sugarcane fell to 41.2 percent.Sugar producers and the members of farmer-owned cooperatives are increasingly interested innew technologies and product markets for their crops, including the growing ethanol market.
Cooperatives in the sugar industry
 Producer-owned cooperatives now dominate thesugar beet and sugarcane processing sectors asmarket conditions prompted more farmers totake ownership of their processing facilities toensure a market for their beets or cane.Sugar beet processing: Beet processing facilitiesconvert raw sugar beets directly into refinedsugar in a 1-step process. While planted sugarbeet acreage has fallen slightly since the 1990s,sugar production actually increased due toinvestments in new processing equipment, theadoption of new technologies, improved cropvarieties and enhanced technologies for the
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http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/pub/sep06/ethanol.htm
desugaring of molasses.Sugar beets are very bulky and relatively expensive to transport and must be processed fairlyquickly before the sucrose deteriorates. Therefore, all sugar beet processing plants are locatedin the production areas. During the past decade, there was a steady conversion of sugar beetprocessing plants to cooperative ownership. All 23 U.S. sugar beet processing facilities arenow operated by farmer-cooperatives. These include: Michigan, four facilities; Minnesota andNorth Dakota (the largest sugar beet producing region) seven facilities; Colorado andNebraska, three facilities; Wyoming, two facilities; Idaho, three facilities; Montana, twofacilities; and California, two facilities.
Sugarcane processing:
Sugarcane is initially processed into raw sugar at mills near the cane fields. Like beets, cane isbulky and relatively expensive to transport and must be processed as soon as possible tominimize sucrose deterioration. The raw sugar is then shipped to refineries to produce refinedsugar.Cooperative ownership of sugarcane mills is not as dominant as with sugar beets. In somestates, there has been a decline in the number of cooperativeowned mills. Hawaii has gonefrom 12 mills in 1994 down to two in 2006, none of which are cooperatives. Louisiana hasgone from 20 mills and 10 cooperatives in 1994 to 12 mills and 4 cooperatives in 2006.However, while Hawaii sugarcane acreage has declined significantly, Louisiana
’ 
s acreageincreased slightly as the remaining mills were upgraded and expanded. Florida sugarcaneacreage and mill numbers have remained relatively constant, with one cooperative among thesix mills. The lone mill in Texas is cooperatively owned, and acreage has been fairly stableover the past decade.Because all sugar beets and a significant portion of sugarcane is processed at cooperativelyowned facilities, there would be significant cooperative involvement in any future sugar-toethanol production.
 A conveyor transports sugarbeets from stockpiles into the ACS processing plant inMoorhead, Minn. USDA 
Factors impactingsugar to ethanol viability
 Corn is currently the least-costfeedstock available for ethanolproduction. Ethanol fromsugarcane or sugar beet feedstocks costs twice as much. USDA 
’ 
s recent sugar/ethanol reportprovides these comparative production costs.
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