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US firm forms Brazilian partnerships to develop next generation biofuel

SGB signs “landmark” deals in Brazil to advance Jatropha as an alternative energy crop

The US-BRIC agreements aim to research and develop biofuels in Brazil

A US biofuels firm has formed Brazilian partnerships in a “landmark” deal to research and develop crops for alternative energy. SG Biofuels (SGB), a US energy crop company delivering bioenergy solutions for the renewable fuel, biomass and chemical markets, has signed agreements in Brazil with Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), the country’s leading agricultural research institution, and with Fiagril, one of the country’s leading biodiesel refiners. The partnership aims to advance the development of Jatropha as a next generation biofuel in the BRIC country.

Embrapa has identified Jatropha as a promising new energy crop in Brazil for biofuels and aviation fuels. The company hopes that the partnership with SGB can progress in its development for these areas.

Manoel Souza, general director of Embrapa Agroenergy, said: “We have identified Jatropha as one of the most promising energy crops for the production of oil for biodiesel and bio jet fuel in Brazil. The first efforts to deploy the crop in Brazil were plagued by a lack of improved cultivars and insufficient technological expertise. We’re confident that through our partnership with SGB we can quickly overcome those challenges.”

Since its establishment in 1973, Embrapa has generated almost nine thousand technologies, products and services for Brazilian agriculture, along with the institutions that form the National Agricultural Research System. The work has opened new agricultural frontiers, raising productivity and reducing production costs in the field.

SGB said the “strategic research partnership” with Embrapa will combine the company’s breeding and genomics platform. This includes the largest and most diverse library of genetic material of Jatropha in the world, with Embrapa's leadership in the advancement of new technologies, which has increased agricultural productivity in Brazil.

The agreement with Fiagril includes the establishment of a JMax Knowledge Centre, located near Fiagril’s 200,000 metric tonne-capacity biodiesel plant in Mato Grosso. The centre is a professionally-managed trial where SGB is advancing elite Jatropha adapted to local growing conditions, while establishing best agronomic practices to enable successful commercial deployment.

Kirk Haney, SGB president and chief executive officer, said: “Our agreements with Embrapa and Fiagril validate the two-years of progress we’ve made advancing our genetics in Brazil and provide a strong platform from which to quickly expand commercial production. We look forward to benefiting from Embrapa’s expertise in Brazilian agriculture as we deploy Jatropha projects for Fiagril and other customers.”

The news from SGB follows other western companies working to develop biofuel production in Brazil. This includes Danish firm Novozymes, which is working with Brazilian bioenergy company GraalBio, to develop a biofuels facility in the BRIC country by 2013.