<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home » Archive »
Nature Blog Network

    Taiwan's Feng Chia University has succeeded in boosting the production of hydrogen from biomass to 15 liters per hour, one of the world's highest biohydrogen production rates, a researcher at the university said Friday. The research team managed to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide (which can be captured and stored) from the fermentation of different strains of anaerobes in a sugar cane-based liquefied mixture. The highest yield was obtained by the Clostridium bacterium. Taiwan News - November 14, 2008.

Creative Commons License

Monday, May 28, 2007

Brazilian biofuels update

Brazil has been very active again these past few days, with some interesting developments in the field of bilateral cooperation, work on biofuels infrastructures (a second ethanol pipeline and waterway infrastructures) and Petrobras' announcement that biofuels have become one of its main strategic sectors, especially the development of its proprietary fuel known as 'H-Bio'. A company's spokesman has also elaborated on Petrobras' plans to further help Africa (in particular Nigeria) to kickstart a biofuels industry. Finally, the rapid mechanisation of sugar cane harvesting in Brazil is resulting in a growing number of cane cutters losing their jobs. The question of finding alternative forms of employment for them is becoming an important issue of discussion.

Brazil and Vietnam to cooperate
In a short note, the Vietnamese government announced today it had approved a plan with Brazil to produce ethanol fuel in Vietnam. Hanoi said in a government directive it had assigned Minister of Industry Hoang Trung Hai to sign an agreement with Brazil, the world's top ethanol exporter, to share ethanol fuel technologies. The directive did not provide details of the plan.

Brazil and Panama: towards a win-win strategy

Long ago, there was some talk about Brazil's vision of creating a centrally located biofuel hub that could serve both the North American, the European and the Asian markets. The idea was to implant biodiesel and ethanol plants in Panama, where raw materials would be transformed into marketable liquid fuels, and then to ship them out. A main objective: to avoid the US tariff on imported ethanol.

During his first visit to Brazil, Panama's president Martín Torrijos toured the ethanol industry and with Lula announced [*Portuguese] that both countries would cooperate on ethanol production, as well as on the expansion of the Canal. Panama will invite Brazilian companies to invest and support them to export ethanol to the U.S., bypassing the tariff. Moreover, Torrijos announced that at the upcoming negotiations with the U.S. on the 'Tratado de Livre-Comércio' (free trade agreement) he will make sure Brazilian companies stand to benefit indirectly, by making Panama their hub to access the North American market more easily.

Besides technical and trade cooperation, Panama and Brazil will jointly study and invest in the sugar cane potential of the country. Currently, some 25,000 hectares of land are devoted to the efficient energy crop, but Panama has an estimated potential of 240,000 hectares. Brazilian expertise in sugar cane agronomy will be shared to strategize around utilizing this resource as efficiently as possible.

Finally, both countries will strengthen their cooperation on expanding the Panama Canal. Several Brazilian engineering firms are already involved in this project, and Lula has reiterated his commitment to uniting Central and South America around the common goal of succeeding in this vast project, that is expected to cost around US$5.2 billion.

Petrobras to focus once and for all on biofuels
State-owned oil company Petrobras has announced its growing focus on biofuels will finally make it a large, integrated and diversified energy company, instead of a mere oil and gas player. General Manager of the company's 'Finished Products' division, Edgard Manta, said Petrobras sees biofuels as its main strategic point of focus. The company will invest massively in three sectors over the coming years, to know ethanol, biodiesel and the innovative 'H-Bio' fuel. Large infrastructure works and the design of new logistical chains becomes a priority:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

(1) For ethanol, the strategic plan is to take minority participations in existing biofuel producers. The goal: to produce 3.5 billion liters exclusively for exports by 2011.

(2) When it comes to 'first generation' biodiesel, Petrobras wants to produce 850 million liters of the biofuel per year by 2011. A cooperation agreement with Brasil Ecodiesel, the largest producer with an installed capacity of 800 million liters (to come fully online in 2008), was signed as well. From next year onwards, Petrobras is mandated to blend 2% biodiesel in all fossil diesel. In January 2008 production of biodiesel begins at Petrobras' three first transesterification plants: one in Quixadá (Ceará state), one in Candeias (Bahia state) and a facility in Montes Claros (in Minas Gerais).

(3) Finally, and most importantly, Petrobras will pursue the large-scale production of its proprietary H-Bio. The process underlying this fuel was designed entirely by the Centro de Pesquisas da Petrobras (Cenpes) and was developed to introduce a renewable oil source in the diesel fuel production scheme taking advantage of existing petroleum refineries. The vegetable oil stream blended with mineral diesel fractions is hydroconverted in Hydrotreating Units (HDT), which are mainly used for diesel sulphur content reduction and quality improvement in petroleum refineries. Four Petrobras refineries have already been adapted to produce H-Bio, which will reduce the company's fossil diesel imports by 25%, signifying saving of around US$240 million per year. The facilities have a combined biofuel capacity of 256 million liters per year.

Biofuel infrastructures: waterways and pipelines
Via its subsidiary BR Distribuidora, which has made biofuel exports possible, Petrobras is further investing in infrastructures to get liquid renewable fuels to market. First of all, BR Distribuidora will build yet another dedicated ethanol pipeline, this time one of around 900 kilometres. The 'alcoolduto' will relay Campo Grande, the capital of the central-western state of Mato Grosso do Sul to the Atlantic port of Paranaguá (in the state of Parana).

Interestingly, the company is beginning to have a serious look at creating waterway infrastructures to transport biofuels. Inland transport over water can in principle be very efficient and cost-effective, but requires good infrastructures and robust maintenance of waterways. BR Distribuidora is going to develop such infrastructures aimed at exporting biofuels from the main sugar cane growing state of São Paulo to the Terminal Marítimo de Ilha D’água (in Rio de Janeiro State) and to the terminal of São Sebastião (São Paulo state).

Petrobras to cooperate with other countries
President Lula has repeatedly stressed his country's willingness to help other countries in the South to kickstart a biofuels industry. Brazil offers technical and scientific expertise and does so via two highly successful state-owned companies: EMBRAPA and Petrobras. The first is the world's leading research center on tropical agronomy, whereas the latter is becoming one of the most competitive non-Western energy companies.

Last year, Petrobras signed a cooperation agreement with Japan which resulted in the formation of Brazil-Japan Ethanol Inc., a joint venture with Japan Alcohol Trading, aimed at exporting bioethanol to the East Asian country. The first shipment has already been delivered. Likewise, the company Mitsui & Co. is cooperating with Brazil to grow energy crops and produce liquid biofuels for exports to Japan. Petrobras has minority shares in both companies that have the sole aim of producing for exports.

Edgard Manta stresses that this approach has the advantage that "this way, all the companies associated with Petrobras are made to comply with our strong social, environmental and labor norms".

Manta then broadened the perspective and said Petrobras will cooperate internationally with countries in Africa and Latin America - in particular with Venezuela, Nigeria and South Africa.

In Venezuela tetraethyl lead in gasoline will be replaced by Brazilian ethanol (an E8 blend). Six cargoes have so far been exported, a total of 150 million liters. Petrobras is negotiating with the government of Venezuela and its state-run oil company PDVSA with the aim of renewing a long term supply contract.

In Africa, from 2008 onwards, the Brazilian oil major will promote an expansion in Nigeria. The idea is to introduce an E10 into the local market. A first shipment of biofuel of around 200 million liters is being negotiated with Petrobras' Nigerian counter-part NNPC.

(President Lula recently talked with 22 African diplomats about ethanol and together with Petrobras and other companies announced the establishment of an "Agrocity" near Lagos, Nigeria, as a starting point to build a pan-African biofuel industry. We will be reporting on this development soon.)

According to Manta, other bilateral agreements and joint ventures have been or are being created with governments and companies of Angola, South Africa, Portugal, Spain, South Korea and Mexico and Paraguay.

Mechanisation and employment
The Agencia Estado reports today that the rapid mechanisation of the sugar cane industry is creating new dilemmas for workers. On the one hand, these low and unskilled laborers come from very poor backgrounds and are not able to find jobs other than doing the backbreaking work of cutting sugar cane. But on the other hand, if they lose their employment on the plantations due to mechanisation, they end up in a truly problematic situation and are often forced to join the growing numbers of people living in the mega-slums of Brazil's large cities.

As is well known, as a result of new legislation and enforcement, the sugar cane sector has had to better the fate of these workers. But progress is slow and abuses are still rampant. Despite this fact, hundreds of thousands of poor workers prefer to harvest cane instead of migrating to the cities where their chances of finding work are limited. Tragically, the sugar sector's increasing mechanisation may now force them towards the latter path anyways.

This trend is worrying São Paulo state's Secretary of Labor Guilherme Afif who wants to study the effect of modernisation and mechanisation on the labor market in depth. To do so, he will sign an agreement tomorrow with the SEAD Foundation to launch a state-wide survey that will be carried out over the coming 4 months.

Afif intends to use the results of the analysis to create a program aimed at facilitating the reintegration of these workers into other markets by training them into a specific niche - ideally, they will be employed in the ethanol industry. The program is seen as urgent and will be implemented in the 645 municipalities of the State.

Afif thinks that the new modernisation cycle of the sugar cane industry may ultimately lead to unemployment for 700,000 workers. "São Paulo may become a social war zone because of biofuels", he said.

The Secretary is also talking with the Federal Minister of Social welfare, Carlos Lupi. According to Afif, Lupi showed interest to collaborate and to free federal funds to support the São Paulo program aimed at providing new qualifications to man power that was laid off. First, however, the results of the survey will have to be awaited.

More information:
Reuters: Vietnam to sign pact with Brazil for ethanol fuel - May 27, 2007.

Agência EFE: Brasil oferece ao Panamá cooperação em etanol e obras do Canal - May 25, 2007.

Ultimo Segundo: Presidente do Panamá reitera que vai promover produção de etanol em seu país - May 26, 2007.

Diário de Nordeste: Lula assina seis acordos de cooperação com o Panamá - May 25, 2007.

ANSA: Brasil e Panamá firmam acordos de biocombustíveis - May 25, 2007.

Diário Comércio, Indústria e Serviços: Petrobras foca os aportes em biocombustível - May 28, 2007.

Reuters Brasil: Petrobras busca parceiro para 2o alcoolduto da companhia - May 25, 2007.

A Tarde Online: SP quer qualificar mão-de-obra em lavoura de etanol - May 27, 2007.


Anonymous battery said...

Afif thinks that the new modernisation cycle of the sugar cane industry may ultimately lead to unemployment for 700,000 workers. "São Paulo may become a social war zone because of biofuels", he said.

5:59 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home