As one of the UK’s leading agriprocessors with an interest in innovative new technology, British Sugar began production of Bioethanol in September 2007 making it the first company to manufacture Bioethanol in the UK.
British Sugar is able to supply Bioethanol with full traceability including a full life cycle analysis. This is necessary to demonstrate that the whole process of production, including crop growing, fermentation and distribution, is carried out in such a way that genuine environmental benefits are delivered.
Bioethanol is made using yeast fermentation followed by distillation. It can be mixed with petrol at up to 5% inclusion and used in cars running on ordinary unleaded petrol.
In the UK, Bioethanol can be economically produced by the fermentation of sugar beet or wheat. In our Wissington refinery, we produce Bioethanol from sugar beet which is supplied under contract by existing growers.
Producing up to 55,000 tonnes (70 million litres) of Bioethanol every year, the refinery uses around 110,000 tonnes of sugar. This is equivalent to 650,000 tonnes of sugar beet. Beet supplied to British Sugar for Bioethanol manufacture is grown on existing farm land.
Bioethanol is produced by the fermentation of sugars followed by distillation to produce a pure alcohol.
Fossil fuels are used in the production process but every effort is made to optimise fuel efficiency. British Sugar has embraced a system called Combined Heat & Power (CHP), recognised as one of the most fuel-efficient processes available. About 80% of the energy in the fuel is employed in the sugar manufacturing process. As a result of the close integration with the sugar factory we have been able to demonstrate GHG emissions savings of over 70% when compared to petrol.
In the UK, Bioethanol can be added to standard unleaded petrol at levels up to 5% and used in any car on the road today. In the Energy Act 2004, the UK Government provided for the enactment of a Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO). This mechanism is very similar to the Renewables Obligation operating in the electricity sector. The obligation was introduced in April 2008 with an obligation of 2.5% biofuels in 2008-2009 and 3.75% in 2009-2010, reaching 5% for 2010-2011.
A blend of up to 5% Bioethanol can be used in any unleaded car on the road in the UK today. In the longer term, there is potential for ordinary cars to use higher blends. Some car manufacturers have already developed engines to operate on blends of up to 85% Bioethanol known as E85.