In Search of A Biofuel El Dorado: The Quest for Brazil’s Energy Independence Future
by Robert Kozak (Advanced Biofuels USA) In 1568, a Spanish Conquistador by the name of Pedro Maraver de Silva led his men on a mission to capture Incas who had escaped with their gold. Journeying north of Peru, they encountered the headwaters of the Amazon and the great plains (gran llano) of what is now Brazil. Almost to a man they were killed or driven mad by the diseases of the rivers, the droughts of the grasslands, or the arrows of the tribal warriors. One who did survive, Juan Martin de Albujar, returned not with Inca gold but with something much grander, the story of El Dorado.1
…For many people in biofuels, there is thought to be a new El Dorado in Brazil. Instead of gold, there will be an unlimited supply of biofuel sugar ready for export. It will be available for biofuel production in Brazil or as a feedstock for the US, Asia, or Europe. The sugar will be cheap. It will never cost more than $.10/lb (US dollars). It will be available without research costs or the need to negotiate with individual growers. Any additional acreage needed will magically appear, rainfall will always be abundant and the waters of the Amazon basis will never run low.
…A potentially large increase in Brazilian ethanol production could occur since under current Brazilian Federal agricultural land use plans, up to 62 million hectares could be used for sugar cane. This significant increase of 54 million hectares is greater than current soybean and corn croplands (54 million hectares vs 40 million hectares) combined. Federal plans envisioned that additional sugarcane acreage would come primarily from pastureland (74%), with only a small amount (.5%) from natural lands.12 However, is this increase in sugarcane cultivation realistic?
…Large scale intrusions into natural vegetation areas for new pasture land or other livestock activities are taken seriously in Brazil. In addition, if the increases in sugarcane were planted for export, additional “local use versus export” conflicts would be created.
…Biomass sugars from agricultural residues would be a very good feedstock for renewable diesel production.
…Sugar cane bagasse is an important Brazilian electricity production fuel.17 … 5% of the country’s electricity is currently produced from biomass. And, with investments being made to replace bagasse boilers and processing equipment with state-of-the-art systems, increases have already been built into national system plans. In the immediate to mid-term future, any additional bigasse produced from new sugar cane cultivation will be used for electrical production. Download paper
The above is an excerpt from “In Search of A Biofuel El Dorado: The Quest for Brazil’s Energy Independence Future,” one in a series of papers published by Advanced Biofuels USA exploring the technologies, products and policies related to the development, deployment and use of advanced biofuels. READ MORE