Brazil 'can treble' productivity of biofuels by 2025, says ministry

16 Apr 2018 | John McGarrity

Brazil can treble its productivity of biofuels by using crop residues and other feedstocks that are by-products of sugarcane and other crops, the head of the country’s biofuels strategy told a conference in Brussels last week.

Through Brazil’s RenovaBio strategy to promote biofuels use, the world’s second-largest ethanol producer can raise productivity to 24,800 litres per hectare of land by 2025, up from the 6,800 litres per hectare produced on average in 2015, Miguel Oliviera of Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy told the conference.

By 2020, Brazil’s production of first- and second-generation biofuels can rise to 11,600  litres per hectare a year as new plants come online through the country’s RenovaBio programme, which came into force earlier this year, Oliviera said.

Brazil will be able to scale up its production of ethanol from crop residues through Renovabio’s promotion of advanced second generation biofuels plants that can claim decarbonisation credits (CBios), which can be traded on a stock exchange.

Economies of scale will enable the cost of ethanol from residues to fall from $0.65/litre in the 2016-2020 period to $0.32/litre in 2021-2025, and then $0.23/litre in 2025-2030, Oliviera added.

"As the technology evolves, E2G will be competitive even with oil prices near to
$40/barrel," Oliviera told the conference.

Raizen, a 2G ethanol plant in Sao Paulo state that has the capacity to produce 40 million litres of ethanol from residues a year, is currently Brazil’s only major advanced biofuels plant.

But the producer plans to commission a further 7 similar facilities that would come online by 2024, while other producers are expected to follow in view of the incentives offered through RenovaBio and demand from fuels suppliers, who will be assigned thresholds on the the carbon footprint of the fuels they sell. 

Under Brazil's Federal Decree No. 9,308, these annual targets must be defined by 15 June this year and will be applied from 24 June to December 31, 2028.

Besides a trade in CBios credits, RenovaBio also entails a certification of biofuels that measures the exact contribution of each biofuel producer in cutting greenhouse gas emissions compared with the fossil fuels they intend to replace.

The targets for fuels are part of Brazil's attempts to decarbonise transport still further and help the country deliver on its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 37% by 2025, from 2005 levels, and 43% by 2030. 

Brazil produced an estimated 27.7 billion litres of ethanol and 4.2 billion litres of biodiesel in 2017, making it the world’s second-largest producer of both fuels.