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Japan’s Minister Visits Brazilian Ethanol Plant

Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, Roberto Rodrigues, was in the city of Pradópolis, in the state of São Paulo, in southeastern Brazil, with the Minister of Agriculture, Forests and Fishing of Japan, Shoichi Nakagawa, for a visit to an ethanol plant (Usina de São Martinho).

The Japanese have expressed an interest in Brazilian sugarcane-based ethanol and are observing the production process. Their long-term interest is to study the possibility of treating ethanol as an renewable energy commodity and drawing up supply contracts that would involve local producers.

Petrobras, Brazil’s state-run oil giant, reported last month that it is studying the possibility of exporting sugarcane-based ethanol to Japan. A joint venture company, Brazil-Japan Ethanol, would be set up.

"Japan could import from 1.8 billion liters to 6 billion liters of ethanol, depending on the amount it adds to its gasoline, which would be between 3% and 10%. However, this is all something for the future. It will not happen before 2008," says Paulo Roberto Costa, director of Supply at Petrobras, who adds that at the moment the priority for Petrobras is the domestic Brazilian market.

Costa explains that ethanol exports on the scale that Japan needs would require an increase of around 40% in ethanol production in Brazil.

"We have to ensure that we have buyers in Japan and adequate production in Brazil," declared Costa, making it clear that Petrobras is not and will not be involved in the production of sugarcane-based ethanol (in the case of ethanol, Petrobras is a distributor).

However, he added that a deal with Japan would certainly be good for both the industrial and farm sectors in Brazil.

Costa revealed that in 2005 Petrobras exported 50 million liters of ethanol to Venezuela as part of a long-term deal to substitute lead in gasoline for less polluting ethanol in that country.

In 2004, total exports of ethanol by Brazil reached 2.5 billion liters.

ABr

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  • Show Comments (3)

  • Sam

    I am trying to find out about the seasonality of the sugarcane to ethanol process in Brazil. In other words, since sugarcane can only be grown and harvested in certain months of the year, do the plants then shut down until the new crop in grown?

  • Guest

    L. Iwase
    Sugarcane is harvested manually or mechanically and shipped to the distillery (usina) in huge specially built trucks. There are several hundred distilleries throughout the country; they are typically owned and run by big farms or farm consortia and located near the producing fields. At the mill the cane is roller-pressed to extract the juice (garapa), leaving behind a fibrous residue (bagasse). The juice is fermented by yeasts which break down the sucrose into CO2 and ethanol. The resulting “wine” is distilled, yielding hydrated ethanol (5% water by volume) and “fusel oil”. The acidic residue of the distillation (vinhoto) is neutralized with lime and sold as fertilizer. The hydrated ethanol may be sold as is (for ethanol cars) or be dehydrated and used as a gasoline additive (for gasohol cars). In either case, the bulk product was sold until 1996 at regulated prices to the state oil company (Petrobras). Today it is no longer regulated.

    One tonne (1,000 kg) of harvested sugarcane, as shipped to the processing plant, contains about 145 kg of dry fiber (bagasse) and 138 kg of sucrose. Of that, 112 kg can be extracted as sugar, leaving 23 kg in low-valued molasses. If the cane is processed for alcohol, all the sucrose is used, yielding 72 liters of ethanol. Burning the bagasse produces heat for distillation and drying, and (through low-pressure boilers and turbines) about 288 MJ of electricity, of which 180 MJ is used by the plant itself and 108 MJ sold to utilities.

    The average cost of production, including farming, transportation and distribution, is US$0.63 per US gallon (US$0.17/L); the gasoline price in the world market is approximately US$ 1.05 per US gallon (US$0.28/L). The alcohol industry, entirely private, has invested heavily in crop improvement and agricultural techniques. As a result, average yearly ethanol yield increased steadily from 300 to 550 m³/km² between 1978 and 2000, or about 3.5% per year.

  • Guest

    CourtJester6@comcast.net
    I would like further information of the processing plants used by Petrobras to make ethanol in Brazil. For example how large are these plants and what other products do they produce besides ethanol? How much ethanol is produced by one plant on an anual basis? What is the cost of producing a liter and how much does a liter sell for in Brazil?

    I would like to find out as much about how Brazil became oil independant as possible. I saw a report on television about your oil independence about was very interested by it. I am studing the possibility of trying to get the United States to buy your product as well as opposed to oil from OPEC. Any information you are able to provide would be greatly appreciated.

    C. Lee Johnson

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