Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: July 1, 2010
Publication Date: December 18, 2010
Citation: Eggleston, G. 2010. Future sustainability of the sugar and sugar-ethanol industries. In: Eggleston, G., editor. Sustainability of the Sugar and Sugar-Ethanol Industries, ACS Symposium Series 1058. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society. p. 1-19. Interpretive Summary: The relatively low and fluctuating profit for sugar, the world-wide impetus to produce alternatives to petroleum-based fuels and reduce green house gases, and water-and energy-intensive factories and refineries are putting pressure on the industries to diversify for sustainability. Trends in sugar manufacture and sugar-ethanol production are discussed as they contribute to sustainability. The sugar crops sugarcane, sugar beet, and sweet sorghum are emphasized.
Technical Abstract: Like many other food and chemical industries, the sugar and sugar-ethanol industries are facing important sustainability issues. The relatively low and fluctuating profit for sugar, the world-wide impetus to produce alternatives to petroleum-based fuels and reduce green house gases, and water- and energy-intensive factories and refineries are putting pressure on the industries to diversify for sustainability. In sugar manufacture, there is a world-wide trend to produce very high purity (VHP) and very low color (VLC) raw sugars for vertical integration from the field to white sugar. All biomass from the sugarcane and sugar beet plants including tops and leaves, are being intensely investigated for utilization, including cogeneration of both heat and bioelectricity in some countries. Sugar, in a few years, is expected to be the “new oil” as sugar is a superior feedstock for the production of platform chemicals for the manufacture of a range of end-products, e.g., bioplastics, industrial solvents, and chemicals. Sugarcane, sugar beet, and sweet sorghum fit well into the concept of a renewable carbohydrate feedstock for fuel ethanol production because of their availability, and they are amongst the plants giving the highest yields of carbohydrates per hectare. Green sustainability criteria are now in place in the European Union for the EU biofuels sector that have to be met to count against national biofuel targets. Processes to convert high-fiber, energy sugarcanes and sugar beets as well as traditional cellulosic by-products into fuel ethanol have been developed but are not yet commercialized.