Embrapa – Current and Future Challenges in Bioenergy Development and Use in Brazil

The soon-to-be-inaugurated facilities of Embrapa Agroenergy, in Brasilia, Brazil.

Brazil is the acknowledged world leader in the generation and implementation of modern,tropical agricultural technology. A series of advantages, such as climate, advanced innovation capabilities and the availability of land to energy farming, without having to reduce food-crop area or impose environmental impact beyond what is socially acceptable, have enabled Brazil to become a world leader in green energy.

A striking example of the country success in this area is the ethanol production chain. The production and use of ethanol from sugarcane in Brazil is a global model for bioenergy production, distribution, and use, and is recognized as one of the most efficient in the world. Like ethanol, biodiesel is also receiving increased attention in Brazil, with development of new source materials, production and industrial technologies. Investment in research and innovation is one of the pillars of sustainable production and rational use of renewable sources of energy in Brazil.

Embrapa Agroenergy is a leading research unit of the the Brazilian Agricultural Research Organization, dedicated to development of technological innovations applied to agroenergy production chains. In a recently published interview, the Head of Embrapa Agroenergy, Dr. Frederico Machado Ozanan Duraes presented a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities for the agroenergy industry in Brazil and analyzed the role of Embrapa in this field of innovation.

The full interview of Dr. Duraes to Journalist Evandro Bittencourt, from the Journal of Bioenergy, can be accessed here (in Portuguese).

Excerpts with some highlights of the interview are presented below.  For more information, please contact labexDOTkoreaATymailDOTcom.

<< Brazil has a balanced energy mix, distributed between renewable and non-renewable sources, with a high percentage of energy from renewable sources, especially biomass. Bioenergy development and production in Brazil will evolve substantially, considering the potential of improvement in raw materials production and industrial process development in the fields of ethanol, biodiesel, energetic forest and waste conversion.>>

<<Technological advances for first generation ethanol and waste applications, including cogeneration and conversion, bring substantial opportunities for the energy industry in Brazil, today and in the future.  >>

<<Territorial organization becomes of paramount importance for business, from now on. Currently, the cultivation of sugar cane occupies about 1% of land in Brazil (about 8.5 million hectares of sugarcane in a total of 851 million hectares of land). Today, agroecological zoning guides the expansion of production and use… and the expansion of cultivation is limited to about 7% of Brazil’s land (to a maximum of about 65 million hectares). >>

<<New varieties (conventional and transgenic), value addition to commercial cultivars, increased productivity and improved quality of  sugar and biomass, improved agricultural practices in traditional and new production areas, as well as incorporation of technologies for cellulosic ethanol production are among the topics that govern the dynamics and evolution of ethanol production systems in in Brazil. >>

<< The learning curve of sugarcane and ethanol production in Brazil shows that innovation was the driving force behind  business competitiveness, and investment  in research and development made possible to reach a favorable relationship of prices between ethanol and gasoline. This trend is expected to continue. We still have good perspectives to move forward with first generation technologies (ethanol from sugarcane sucrose), and there is a huge potential to be exploited with advanced technologies, like lignocellulosic ethanol, other derivatives, new products and materials from biomass.>>

<<Available data show that about 80% of vegetable oils produced in the world comes from only four plant species: soybean, palmoil, sunflower and canola. Brazil has set up a logistics for soybean production over the past 40 years, a crop that has reached about 22 million hectares and 60 million tons of grain annually. This logistics contributes to the functionality of the biodiesel program in Brazil, in the short term.>>

<< The diversification of raw materials is an important strategy for the biodiesel program in Brazil.  Technologies are available for traditional crop species (soybean, sunflower, castor beans, cotton, canola and palm oil) but advances are needed for the non-traditional species (Jatropha, Macauba Palm and other native oil plants). These species are being developed in aspects related to domestication and adaptation to commercial production of oil production and waste management and use.>>

<< Increasing volumes of by-products of biofuel production require knowledge for sustainable utilization and also development of new uses. Quantity, quality and concentration of waste are factors that will impact competitivity of biofuels in the future.  R&D programs are looking at ways to improve the use of different feedstocks and the potential use of by-products in pilot and industrial scales for the production of bio-fertilizers, animal feed, co-generation of energy (heat and electricity), 2nd-generation fuel (cellulosic ethanol), bioplastic and chemicals for diversified industrial uses.>>

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