Mahle’s MBE2 could increase ethanol production without planting new sugarcane

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 23 Feb 2018

A new product launched by Mahle has the potential to revolutionise the ethanol industry at a global level. MBE2 (Mahle Bioethanol 2) is a solution that increases the production of ethanol by a minimum of 10 percent without the need to increase the area of planted sugarcane.

The use of biofuels in internal combustion engines is an important alternative to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, one of the gases responsible for the greenhouse effect. Ethanol is thus used in countries all over the world as a strategic fuel. In Brazil and the US, for example, a large fleet of vehicles is powered by ethanol at concentrations of 100 percent and 85 percent, respectively. In addition, countries are increasingly using a blend of ethanol and petrol in proportions that vary between 10 percent and 30 percent to increase the fuel’s octane rating.

This is a definitive trend as a higher octane rating of the blend enables the ethanol to perfectly meet the challenges of new, more energy-efficient and explosion-proof combustion engines that require high-octane fuels.

As a measure of the global market potential of this renewable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly fuel in the next few years, China – with its massive consumption capacity –announced that it will begin using a petrol mixture that contains 10 percent ethanol across the entire country. Along the same lines, the U.S. is evaluating an increase in its current blend of 10 percent ethanol to between 25 and 30 percent.

The use of ethanol is a quick alternative to address full-cycle CO2 emissions because it uses existing infrastructure. In combination with vehicle electrification and other advanced propulsion technologies, such as fuel cells, it will assist in reducing future greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.

Until electrical energy is largely produced from renewable sources and electric vehicles are manufactured exclusively ethanol will continue to play a vital role. Thus, for Brazil, one important path forward is the efficient use of ethanol, even in hybrid vehicles.

The development of MBE2
MBE2 was developed at the Mahle Tech Center in Jundiai, São Paulo (one of the 16 R&D centers of the Mahle Group in the world), based on the concepts of a third-party patent and together with their collaboration. The company also gained access to the rights to explore the ethanol-production technology on a global scale. Mahle says the intensive four-year development began in its dedicated laboratory and included a two-year pilot project followed by a period of industrial-sized operations carried out in an ethanol power plant in the region of Sertãozinho, São Paulo.

As is known, both first-generation ethanol produced using different cultures – notably sugarcane – and second-generation ethanol produced from biomass are derived from fermentation using yeast. To innovate the fermentation process, which is the bottleneck in ethanol plants, MBE2 consists of a system inside the fermenters that uses equipment to control the process as well as proprietary software. The system stimulates biochemical reactions, which results in a larger production of ethanol at a low operational cost.

Mahle says MBE2 is a much cheaper alternative to increase production both in terms of the investment and operational cost. It contributes to the plant’s results and to sustainability because it does not require an increase in the planted area and significantly reduces greenhouse gases.

This technology can be applied to any raw material and the production of any sugarcane- or biomass-based biofuel, such as that from corn, which is largely used in the U.S. The increase in revenue is yet to be determined.