US-EU-Brazil Team Can’t Agree on How Much Water Should Go in Ethanol

Sugar cane being harvested in Brazil A Brazilian-American-European taskforce of technicians created to define an international standard for ethanol has already concluded and promoted early this month the first phase of the work for harmonization of technical specifications of the product.

The objective behind this standardization is to simplify international trade of the product, granting it a global standard and permitting the opportunity for it to become a commodity (a primary product traded in stock markets).

The quality consultant at the São Paulo Sugar Cane Agroindustry Union (Unica), José Felix Silva, the producer representative in the taskforce, stated that in the evaluation that is being made there is consensus about most of the specifications under discussion, although there is still disagreement as to the percentage of water present in the ethanol.

"An evaluation was made considering all specifications and an agreement was reached regarding most of them. Although there are still some pending matters, the only item that has not yet been agreed on is the volume of water in the ethanol."

According to José Felix, while the United States defend a water level of around 1%, and Brazil of around 0.5%, the countries of the European Union want to limit the volume of water present in the alcohol to just 0.24%.

"This value defined by the Europeans is very low and may mean a reduction in the Brazilian production of ethanol. We would be obliged to remove more water, losing, according to our estimates, around 7% of the total production of alcohol in the country, which is currently 14 billion liters, reducing our production in between two and three billion liters," he explained.

Despite the expectation that still this year an agreement should be reached regarding the volume of water in ethanol, the technician recalls that the work group established by the government of Brazil, the United States and the European Union has not yet stipulated a date for conclusion of the negotiations.

He informed that next March 13, the document disclosed early this month by the main countries that produce and export will be presented to other possible partners in the ethanol business, like India and South Africa.

Of the 15 specifications examined, eight are compatible for the three markets, among them the density and level of sulfur, copper and steel, and six are unique to each.

Starting now, the group is going to work on aligning the different standards, harmonizing technical specifications and alleviating cost. The problems generated by non-uniform quality of ethanol go from the difficulty of storage and distribution logistics to the possible contamination (mixing) of the product.

ABr

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