A sugar beet trial in Scotland has received new funding, in a promising move for the development of sustainable fuel supply chains in the country. Sugar beet-based bioethanol and other plant-based biotech products have been highlighted as a potential means of helping Scotland meet its emission reduction targets.
The sugar beet initiative is backed by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), SAC Consulting, and Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), and has recently secured funding from Scottish Enterprise for use in assessing the scheme’s environmental and economic impact.
Prior to this initiative, sugar beet had not been successfully produced in the country for 50 years. Its reintroduction is seen by some as the key to tapping into sustainable biofuel, with a report conducted by consultants NNFCC for Scottish Enterprise saying a domestic sugar beet site would produce enough bioethanol to meet the ‘current 4% and future 10%’ fuel blend requirements in Scotland.
“Growing sugar beet in Scotland once again is a huge opportunity to re-invent the economy, build sustainability into manufacturing supply chains, and secure jobs for the future,” said Ian Archer, technical director at IBioIC. “Many of the biggest consumer goods manufacturers have committed to net-zero carbon targets over the next two decades and a big part of that drive will be replacing the use of petrochemicals with natural materials.”
According to the NNFCC report, a biorefinery requires up to 20,000ha of sugar beets within a 30-60 mile radius of the refinery. Having a local sugar beet source could open the door to establishing a biorefinery site in Grangemouth – the current centre of Scotland’s chemical and petrochemical processing.
Andrew Henderson of Scottish Enterprise’s advanced manufacturing team, added: “This is a hugely exciting project which could yield transformational outcomes for businesses. Our funding will help unlock a vital next step for this project to support sustainable fuel and chemical production through biotechnology, and ultimately create new jobs and investment to strengthen communities across Scotland.”