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Biotechnological sugar beet: an innovative agrification programme

Full valorisation of sugar beet in non-food areas with bio-
ethanol and galacturonic acid derivatives:three innovations:
enzymatic bioconversion, galacturonic chemistry and sugar
beet genetic improvements due to new selection criteria.

This project will achieve all the required developments to design and generate new agro-industrial plants dedicated to non-food markets. These factories will produce bio-ethanol and galacturonic acid-derived products. Sugar beet has been chosen for this purpose since it is the most cost effective crop in terms of biomass per hectare, a key factor in such a project. Two major technological breakthroughs accomplished by A.R.D. in past years are at the origin of this utterly new concept: - firstly, the enzymatic bioconversion of beet roots. The benefit of this technology, compared to the traditional sugar industry for the production of fermentation substrates has been confirmed by A.R.D. In a word, this treatment enables, without any addition of water or chemicals, sugars to be recovered from both the cytoplasm and cell wall polysaccarides. Hence the ethanol yield is significantly increased by at least 7%. Concomittantly, galacturonic acid liberated from beet pectins is isolated without affecting the ethanol yield. Furthermore, an additional 10% gain is expected with new species since purity is no longer a selection criterion. - secondly, the use of galacturonic as a chemical building block. This strategic approach, funded by the E.U., relies upon two facts. Galacturonic acid is the second component by weight in sugar beet. However, it has never been investigated since it is not readily available in the market. Very promising chemical syntheses have been performed. A combination of galacturonic with several alkyl branches of various lengths gives a range of surfactant. The resulting products have been evaluated as surfactant, sequestrant and emulsifier auxiliaries by several large industrial firms. According to their response, there is no doubt that these products will be useful in their formulations. The market lead is all in non-food fields and is far from being fulfilled, compared to the steady surplus situation in the food and feed business. The first outlet, ethanol, has always been criticised for its high cost price. Integrated with the surfactant production into a larger scheme, realistic price cuts are now possible. Additionally, the recent tax exemption voted by the FRENCH GOVERNMENT and the tax cut proposal of the E.U. COMMISSION certainly reinforce the economic accuracy of our project. The second market target will meet an increasing demand for readily available biodegradable surfactants and sequestrants. This market is also considerable and dominated by petroleum-derived chemicals. The E.U. market amounts to 2.58 million tons with prices ranging from 5 FF/kg to several thousand FF/kg. Our products will compete with other natural surfactants that generally cost more than 15 FF/kg. In three years, all the development phases will have been conducted and commercial validation achieved. Full-scale production, integrated into one of SUCRE UNION's distilleries, will be decided in the fourth year.
Acronym: 
BIOTECH BEET
Project ID: 
821
Start date: 
01-10-1992
Project Duration: 
63months
Project costs: 
7 130 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Market Area: 

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.