My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How Benchmark Renewable Energy Sorghum to make Ethanol might be perfect sugar Replacement

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How Benchmark Renewable Energy Sorghum to make Ethanol might be perfect sugar Replacement

Biofuel from sorghum is finally coming to Jamaica.

Florida-based company Benchmark Renewable Energy has plans to construct a 10 million-gallon ethanol plant in Jamaica as reported in the article “New Ethanol Plant For Jamaica”, published Wednesday March 9, 2016 by Camilo Thame, The Jamaica Gleaner

Their planned feedstock is sorghum, a plant that's similar to sugar but looks a lot like wheat as shown below.

They're planning to plant some 4,000 hectares of sorghum in the next two (2) years to yield can yield up to 400,000 tonnes of sorghum annually from two harvests. An additional 4000 hectares will make it possible for them to double the capacity of their ethanol plant to 20 million gallons.

Their business model is based on sales of ethanol to Petrojam as an additive to gasoline.

In so doing, they hope to replace some 80% of Jamaica's imported ethanol. They will also generate their own electricity by firing up a 6MW electrical generator, which will allow them to sell some electricity to the JPS Co (Jamaica Public Service Company)

Ethanol from Sorghum not a new idea – Russians floated the idea that never materialized

If this plan sounds familiar it should; some Russian investors had a similar idea back in March 2011 as reported in my blog article entitled “Russians see potential in Ethanol Fuel Plant in Jamaica – From Russia With Love for sorghum”.  .

However, for reasons unknown, the plant never materialized and I've not heard of the Russians or their plans to make ethanol from sorghum. I'm hopeful for this investment to succeed, as Benchmark Renewable Energy are awaiting several things:

1.      Lease agreement for 4,000 hectares of land
2.      Offtake agreement with the state-run refinery, Petrojam,  
3.      Power purchase agreement with the JPS co

So can this idea be duplicated through Jamaica?

Growing sorghum - The Rise of the Health conscious Sugar Market in Jamaica

Expect the company to break ground in April 2016 and developed over the next two (2) years as Growing sorghum isn't easy but fairly easy to harvest.

We might soon hear of the rise of small sugar producers who use sorghum to target a health conscious market as predicted in my blog article entitled “Why Seprod and GraceKennedy are expanding into the Branded Sugar Market in Jamaica”.

Sorghum might be a great replacement for sugar, seeing as sugar is dying as noted in “Gov't To Help Chinese-Owned Pan Caribbean Sugar Factory”, Published Tuesday March 22, 2016, The Jamaica Gleaner

Care has to be taken to rest the land as sorghum mops up whatever nitrogen is in the soil. Plant rotation with mustard seed, a nitrogen fixing plant, will help to replenish the soil and produce some 500,000 gallons of aviation jet fuel aka kerosene. Despite this, sorghum is carbon negative, removing some three tonnes of Carbon dioxide for every one tonne of sorghum produced.

I expect in short order another company coming to Jamaica to grow Sorghum to supply branded healthy sugar, despite there being no such thing.

So a replacement for sugar, then!? 

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