Oil substitute

Sugar beet could produce clean fuel and create jobs

Reintroducing sugar beet could help meet net zero targets

Sugar beet could help produce sustainable fuel and support thousands of jobs in Scotland, according to a study.

At least 815 jobs could be directly created by moving towards domestically produced bioethanol as a sustainable feedstock for manufacturing, along with hundreds more through associated supply chain and logistics services.

Sugar extracted from sugar beet can be used in the production of ethanol as a natural and sustainable substitute for petroleum-based chemicals used in a range of household goods, as well as antibiotics, therapeutic proteins, and for transportation.

Such a project would also safeguard many of the 11,000 jobs in Scotland’s chemicals industry, which is increasingly moving towards alternatives to fossil fuels.

It would also create roles in the burgeoning biotechnology sector – many of which would likely be in rural and deprived areas.

The study, funded by Scottish Enterprise and produced by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), found that switching to a local supply of bioethanol, rather than relying on importing it from Europe as Scotland currently does, could significantly reduce the country’s carbon footprint by more than 280,000 tonnes of CO– the equivalent of taking nearly 61,000 cars off the road per year.

The study builds on crop trials conducted in 2020 that found Scotland can grow sugar beet at competitive yields. IBioIC’s report sets an initial target of growing 1 million tonnes of sugar beet annually, which could in turn produce 110 million litres of bioethanol per year – expected to be around 75% of Scotland’s current needs for transport.

Dundee – for its proximity to suitable agricultural land – or Grangemouth, because of its access to power generation, water treatment, a major port, and existing presence of chemicals companies have also been identified in the report as the optimal locations for a bioethanol plant. 

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