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SUGAR BEET: A Just Transition for the Chemicals Sector and a Net Zero Solution for Manufacturing


The study explores the techno-economic analysis of the re-introduction of sugar beet as a rotational crop in Scotland for use as an industrial feedstock. It builds on evidence gathered through a feasibility study commissioned by Scottish Enterprise in 2019.


Crop trials in 2020, provided evidence that Scotland can grow sugar beet varieties at competitive yields. This study developed its own financial modelling to understand the production cost of bioethanol from sugar beet. The model takes into consideration the full value chain, from farm to the bioethanol plant. Analyses of economics (both agricultural and chemical), carbon accounting and societal benefits, cooperative structure, and investment informed the study.


Scotland could grow sufficient sugar beet as a rotation crop to feed a profitable 100 to 200-litre bioethanol plant, based at either Dundee or Grangemouth. A Scottish bioethanol plant could produce 170M litres of bioethanol per annum, meeting the needs of 100% of Scotland’s bioethanol demand for E10 fuels, with a surplus for smaller chemicals and/or industrial biotechnology manufacturing. A domestic supply would capture the supply chain emissions associated with bioethanol production, capturing over 280,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent from the atmosphere, which is the same as removing almost 61,000 cars off the road per year. The growth of Scottish sugar beet will create jobs, drive new opportunities for agriculture, and provide the essential bio-based sugar feedstock for accelerating growth of Scotland’s industrial biotechnology sector and most importantly, secure a biobased alternative to fossil carbon for Scotland’s manufacturing sector.


Based on the findings of this report, a number of next steps have been suggested: undertake a full engineering study of the bioethanol plant to fully understand all of the capital expenditure and operational expenditure associated with the project; develop a campaign to attract inward investment and/or bioethanol plant operators to Scotland; hold farmer focus groups to disseminate the project, address questions and increase adoption of sugar beet growth; develop a Cooperative structure; explore public sector support options; explore the development of Government subsidies and incentives to drive the project forward at both a Scottish and UK level.

Author IBioIC
Published Year 2021
Report Type Research
  • Sectors
    Chemical sciences
  • Equity
    Sustainable development