Brazil Sugarcane Harvest Strong

Brazilian sugarcane harvestThe volume of cane sugar produced by mills in the South-Central region of Brazil reached 46.34 million tons in the first 15 days of August, up 4.72 percent compared to value recorded in the same half of the previous year (44.25 million tons). Since the harvest began, crushing has totaled 315.10 million tons, an increase of 20.68 percent compared to the same period in 2012. However, this amount remains below the 338.08 million tons recorded in the same period of 2010/2011 season – at which plants located in the Center-South processed 556.95 million tons at the end of that season.

According to the Technical Director of the Union of Industry Cana-de-Açúcar (UNICA), Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, “The number of days lost in this first half of August was very low, a fact that allowed the production units operating near capacity production of this crop.”

In relation to agricultural productivity, according to data compiled by the Center for Sugarcane Technology (CTC), this totaled 86.50 tons of cane sugar per hectare in the first half of August. Of the total amount of cane sugar ground in the first half of August, 47.76 percent has been allocated to the production of sugar.

“The recent change in the exchange rate promoted a recovery in sugar prices in reais and changed the attractiveness of the product compared to ethanol,” said Rodrigues who noted this has not caused a drastic change in product mix in favor of sugar. “This is because the flexibility of production facilities is limited in this harvest period characterized by more grinding and ATR, ie, when industries work closely with its manufacturing capacity,”

Ethanol production reached 1.95 billion liters in the first 15 days of August, with 1.10 billion liters of hydrous and 858.23 million liters of anhydrous ethanol. The manufacture of sugar, in turn, totaled 2.91 million tonnes against 3.03 million tonnes registered in the same half of 2012. Continue reading

Why Sugarcane Ethanol is Essential to RFS

There is a significant amount of attention being paid to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) but one area that hasn’t been talked about much is the role of sugarcane ethanol in the RFS. To learn more, I spoke with Leticia Phillips the representative for North America with UNICA – the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association.

She said that under the RFS, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol is classified as an “other advanced biofuel” and by 2022 this category of fuel is to contribute 4 billions gallons to the fuel supply. Phillips said that today, sugarcane Leticia Phillipsethanol is the best performing biofuel commercially available today. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculations, sugarcane ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by at least 61 percent when compared to traditional fuel, i.e. gasoline.

Today, sugarcane ethanol represents 3 percent of all fuels under the RFS, but it is actually one quarter of the advanced pool of the fuels for the RFS. Phillips says it plays a pretty important role and provides a secure flow of biofuels.

Brazilian sugarcane ethanol has been under fire because its not “American-made” and also because many argue it doesn’t have the GHG emission reductions that the EPA says it does. I asked Leticia why UNICA believes push-back on the biofuel is misplaced.

Leticia said from her viewpoint is that the RFS doesn’t specify that the fuel must be made in America, but rather the goal is to reduce carbon emissions. “The goal should also be to help America become energy secure and energy diverse,” explained Phillips. She said that energy security and energy independence both mean looking at where the country can get better performing biofuels for the program.

While she understands some of the push-back from the market, she stressed that a bigger problem with the RFS today is the so-called “blend wall” issue coupled with the fact that American fuel use is dwindling – a scenario no one anticipated when the RFS was created.

To learn more, listen to my interview with Leticia Phillips here: Why Sugarcane Ethanol is Essential to the RFS

For more information on sugarcane ethanol, visit UNICA’s sugarcane website.

Brazilian Biofuel Trade Mission

A first-of-its-kind joint trade mission to Brazil has been scheduled to “improve and enhance biofuels trade by matching businesses seeking greater trade opportunities in ethanol and other biofuels as well as green technology designed to expand and enhance biofuel production.”

brazilApproximately 15 companies will be selected for the mission, which is the product of a partnership between the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), and the Advanced Biofuel Association (ABFA), targeting the Brazilian cities of São Paulo and Recife.

The trade mission, which will be held Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, will focus on introducing importers and exporters of biofuel and biofuel technology, in an effort to enhance bilateral relationships and enhance trade opportunities. The effort was engineered through a partnership between the aforementioned biofuel advocates, and the Brazil-U.S. Business Council (BUSBC), which represents key businesses from the United States and Brazil that have interests in promoting free trade between the two countries. The BUSBC, which is a part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is helping to administer the matchmaking mission as part of its Export Green Initiative, which was created through funding from the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce to promote U.S. exports of renewable and green commodities and technologies.

Learn more about the mission here.

RFA Initiates Talks with Brazilian Ethanol Industry

ed-brazilRepresentatives of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) recently took part in UNICA’s Worldwide Ethanol Summit in Brazil with a two-fold mission. First, RFA represented American ethanol interests at the global event, but it also offered them an opportunity to sit down with their Brazilian ethanol counterparts and discuss how they can work together in a growing international marketplace.

“It was kind of the first step in trying to forge an era of collaboration on issues important to our industry,” said RFA General Counsel Ed Hubbard, noting that it would be in the best interest of the two largest ethanol producing nations to provide supply assurances to other countries considering the increased use of biofuels. “Countries like China, India, and the Philippines and Nigeria that are looking at establishing 5-10% blend mandates.”

ethanol-report-adHubbard says they are being supported in the effort by several agencies of the federal government. “We went down there with the help and assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Foreign Ag Service, as well as our friends at the Department of Commerce,” he said. “(The Brazilians) saw that there’s a commitment not only from industry but also from the U.S. government to try to help promote…our commodity around the globe.”

The next step will be more formal talks with Brazil and other countries to work toward a cooperative effort.

Find out more in this Ethanol Report with Hubbard: Ethanol Report on Talks with Brazil

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

Brazil’s GranBio Open US Operations

Brazil-based GranBio has announced plans to expand to the U.S. with an office in San Francisco and has name Vonnie Estes as the managing director. In this new role, Ms. Estes will lead GranBio’s efforts to access new technologies and establish key public and private collaborations for the company’s continued global expansion in advanced biorefinery development.

Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 10.13.42 AMMs. Estes joins GranBio from Codexis, a developer of engineered enzymes for pharmaceutical, biofuel and chemical production, where she most recently was Vice President of Corporate Development. Prior to Codexis, she was the Chief Commercial Officer at DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE)as Executive Vice President, Business Development. Prior to joining DDCE, she led DuPont’s commercialization program for cellulosic ethanol. Her multifunctional team was responsible for the $140 million joint venture between DuPont and Danisco.

“GranBio intends to expand its profile in North America and our new office in the United States will allow us to build a team and execute our strategy,” said Alan Hiltner, Executive Vice President, GranBio. “We are extremely pleased that Ms. Estes will lead our effort. Her track record of success at large, established multi-national and early stage start-up companies is the mark of a true entrepreneurial spirit and savvy industry trendsetter. These are exactly the qualities we want to be known for as GranBio begins its strategic global expansion.”

In April, GranBio completed the acquisition of a 25 percent equity investment in the North American Cleantech pioneer American Process Inc. (API). Under the agreement, GranBio will have access to a proprietary biomass pretreatment platform that makes it possible to cost-effectively develop cellulosic sugars as a feedstock for conversion to a variety of biochemicals and biofuels.

Amyris Ships First Product

240617Amyris has shipped it first commercial product from its plant in Brazil. The facility was the company’s first purpose-built industrial fermentation facility and produces Biofene, the company’s brand of renewable farnesene, to be used in a range of specialty chemical and fuel applications.

“This initial shipment marks the successful completion of our start-up activities. We have operated multiple tanks without contamination or surprises through several production runs during the first month of operation,” said John Melo, President and CEO of Amyris.

“We are now focused on ramping up Biofene production and delivering product to our customers, from renewable diesel for bus fleets in Brazil to squalane emollient globally and soon a range of specialty chemical applications,” Melo concluded.

Amyris’s Biofene plant in Brotas, in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, sources its sugarcane feedstock locally from the Paraíso mill. Prior to the start-up of this facility, Amyris relied solely on contract manufacturing for commercial production.

Amyris Begins Biofene Production in Brazil

Amyris-logo (1)Amyris has announced that it has completed a $42.25 million private placement of its common stock. The company has also begun production of its industrial fermentation facility in Brazil and is producing Biofene, its brand of renewable farnesene, a fragrant oil chemical. When adding a hydrogen molecule to farnesene, you get farnesane, which is the foundation molecule for renewable diesel.

“We are encouraged by the continued, strong commitment from our major investors, particularly as we start up our new industrial fermentation facility for the production of our renewable hydrocarbons in Brazil,” said John Melo, Amyris President & CEO. “Our own farnesene plant at Paraiso has been successfully commissioned, with initial farnesene production underway. We anticipate sales from this facility during the first quarter of 2013.”

The Company sold 14,177,849 shares of common stock in a private placement to existing Amyris investors. The transaction included $37.25 million in cash proceeds and the conversion by Total Gas & Power USA, SAS of $5 million from an outstanding senior unsecured convertible promissory note.

Edeniq Expands Into Brazil

Edeniq, with its partner Usina Vale, a Brazilian sugar and ethanol producer, has begun to engineer and construct a bagasse to sugars demonstration-scale plant. The biorefinery will produce cellulosic sugars from sugarcane bagasse and then convert it into ethanol. The plant will handle up to 20 tons per day of bagasse and will be co-located at Usina Vale’s ethanol and sugar production site in São Paulo State, Brazil. One goal of the project is to demonstrate how sugarcane mills can economically increase ethanol production with Edeniq’s bolt-on technologies.

After a feasibility study was completed, Usina Vale signed a collaboration agreement with Edeniq under which they are jointly funding the bagasse to sugar demonstration-scale plant, believed to be the first of its kind in the region. Co-locating the demo plant at Usina Vale’s commercial site will accelerate the technology scale-up from demo to full-scale, and the technology will then be deployed at affiliated ethanol plants.

“Brazil has a large and growing demand for ethanol,” said Pedro Augusto Menezes de Toledo Florencio, CEO of Usina Vale. “We believe Edeniq’s technology will allow us to increase ethanol production in a very economical way, allowing us to meet the growing demand of our customers and our country.”

According to Edeniq, their technologies efficiently break down biomass to liberate cellulosic sugars that can be converted into ethanol and other products. Edeniq owns and operates a fully integrated two ton per day pilot plant in Visalia, California, in partnership with Logos Technologies, using its proprietary Cellunator, which mechanically pre-treats biomass so that it can be more easily converted to sugars, increasing sugar yield and thus driving an increase in ethanol yield. The Brazil plant will also include this technology.

“Through this partnership with Usina Vale, we are further demonstrating our model of increasing the efficiency, scalability and sustainability of biofuels through low capital and operating cost technologies that can be integrated directly into existing ethanol production sites,” added Brian Thome, President and CEO of Edeniq. “Edeniq is developing the lowest cost route to cellulosic sugars, which will lead to low cost ethanol production for our partners like Usina Vale.”

RFA Calls for Removal of Trade Distorting Policies

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling on the Obama Administration to help remove certain trade distorting policies in Brazil that they say have contributed to the dramatic decline in exports of ethanol to Brazil. The organization’s President and CEO, Bob Dinneen, sent a letter to US Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk asking for assistance on the matter.

The letter seeks assistance from the USTR in convincing Brazil to reverse its decision to reduce blend volumes from 25 percent to 18 percent, and remove a tariff imposed by the state of Sao Paulo that is discriminating against a vast majority of exports to Brazil. While imports of ethanol from Brazil continue to flow into the U.S. at the rate of about 50 – 60 million gallons per month with the help of the RFS, exports to Brazil have been reduced significantly as a result of these trade barriers.

Most analysts expect the U.S. to export just 650-750 million gallons for the entire year, with only about 10-15 percent of the ethanol going to Brazil.

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

Bunge Becomes Cobalt Investor

The Advanced Biofuels Markets conference is underway in San Francisco and many advanced biofuels companies have been making announcements. One of these companies is Cobalt Technologies who has announced that Bunge Global Innovation has joined its Cobalt’s Series E Preferred Stock round an a strategic investor.

The investment comes on the heels of Cobalt’s agreement with Bunge and specialty chemicals company Rhodia Poliamida e Especialidades Ltda. (“Rhodia”) to operate a pilot plant demonstrating the production of n-butanol utilizing sugarcane bagasse as feedstock at the Laboratório Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia do Bioetanol facility in Campinas, Brazil. The partners will also work together to develop a co-located, demonstration scale biorefinery at a Bunge sugarcane mill.

“We are pleased to have forged this strategic partnership with Bunge, one of the largest sugar producers in Brazil,” said Bob Mayer, CEO, Cobalt Technologies. “Bunge’s investment and supply of raw material for feedstock will allow us to begin demonstrating the value of our biobutanol technology and help unlock its potential.”

Ben Pearcy, Managing Director, Sugar & Bioenergy and Chief Development Officer of Bunge Limited, added, “Cobalt’s promising technology presents the opportunity to leverage Bunge’s sugarcane processing assets to produce new high-value products that diversify our revenue streams and enhance returns.”

Cobalt & Rhodia to Build Biobutanol Plant

Cobalt Technologies and Rhodia, a member of the Solvay Group, is partnering to develop and operate a biobutanol demonstration facility in Brazil. The plant will use Cobalt’s technology to convert bagasse (sugarcane by-product) and other local feedstock into bio n-butanol, which can be used as both a transportation fuel or industrial chemical.

“This agreement puts us on a clear path towards commercialization, which will result in the development of the first commercial-scale biorefinery using bagasse as a feedstock for the production of biobutanol,” said Bob Mayer, CEO of Cobalt Technologies. “We are very pleased to be working with Rhodia. Our corporate values and goals are aligned and Rhodia’s experience in the global chemical markets and long history of success in Latin America position us well for success.”

Work on the construction of the demonstration facility will begin in August 2012 and will be moved to a sugar mill site in early 2013 for testing. Operational testing is expected to be completed by Mid-2013.

Vincent Kamel, president of Rhodia Coatis Business Unit, added about the partnership, “We are convinced that Cobalt’s technology will provide an unmatched cost advantage over the long term, while also enhancing our sustainable development strategy related to our Augeo range of biosourced solvents. We look forward to our continued partnership, working closely with Cobalt to capitalize on the massive market opportunity for bio n-butanol in Latin American and beyond.”

Solazyme & Bunge Break Ground on Facility in Brazil

Renewable oil producer Solazyme, Inc. and agribusiness and food company Bunge Limited broke ground on a 100,000 metric ton renewable oil facility right next to Bunge’s Moema sugarcane mill in Brazil. This press release says that the companies have also brought on as general manager Hildo Henz, an experienced engineer who has led major refinery projects during his career, to run the joint venture known as Solazyme Bunge Produtos Renováveis Ltda.

Mr. Henz brings over 20 years of experience in operations and management to his new role. Previously, he was the engineering director at Brenco, a Brazilian renewable energy company, where he led greenfield projects in excess of US$ 500 million. Prior to Brenco, Mr. Henz was CEO of Alberto Pasqualini – REFAP S/A, a Petrobras/Repsol joint-venture refinery in Brazil, where he led its US$ 1.3 billion expansion. He had previously served as a strategic planning manager at Petrobras in Rio de Janeiro, where he implemented new refining technologies.

“Our joint venture with Solazyme is off to a strong start and we continue to build excitement about the renewable oil product opportunities that will emerge from the partnership. Breaking ground at Moema and adding Hildo as General Manager are great indications of our joint commitment to the sugar-to-oils platform and we look forward to continued progress,” said Ben Pearcy, Managing Director of Sugar & Bioenergy and Chief Development Officer, Bunge Limited.

“We are very happy to have broken ground on our Solazyme-Bunge joint venture facility on schedule and are also greatly pleased to have brought Hildo on board to run the JV. Hildo brings an unparalleled level of expertise that will enable successful plant commissioning and operations,” said Jonathan Wolfson, CEO, Solazyme. “He is a top-tier seasoned executive who has built, overseen and launched large manufacturing businesses and we are fortunate to have him as the General Manager.

Construction is expected to be complete late next year.

UnicaData Goes Live Providing Cane Industry Data

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) has unveiled new industry data and statistics. UnicaData is a customizable tool designed to provide detailed industry information focused on the cane industry in Brazil. The free data is derived from third party institutions and features information on areas such as:


  • Sugarcane harvest
  • Quality of harvested cane
  • Harvest projections
  • Sugarcane production and processing
  • Sugarcane acreage
  • Consumption
  • Exports and imports

Luciano Rodrigues, manager of UNICA’s Economics Department, said most of the data available should provide nearly all the information on the sugarcane industry needed. “On this first stage, we added the most sought after data as indicated by web searches involving our industry. We will continue to analyse the demand and gradually enhance and expand the content.”

Along with the ability to search for published reports, the tool can also develop customized reports as requested by a user. In the future, UNICA will enhance and expand the data provided.

UNICA Announces Interim CEO

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) today announced the appointment of an interim CEO to replace Marcos Jank, who announced his resignation on March 27th.

unicaUNICA’s Board of Directors has named the organization’s Technical Director, Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, to serve as interim CEO during the selection process, now underway, for a new chief executive.

A member of the executive team at UNICA since 1990, Rodrigues has been in the sugar-energy industry for more than 30 years and is the organization’s Technical Director since 2003. He is a former Administrative and Financial Coordinator of the Brazilian government’s National Program for the Improvement of Sugarcane, known as Planalsucar, and was also Administrative and Financial Supervisor for projects backed by Industry and Technology Secretariat at the Federal Industry, Trade and Technology Ministry. In 1983, he played a leading role in the introduction of SPCTS, the Sugarcane Payment System by Saccarosis Content, where he remained as a Consultant until 1990.

unicaMarcos Jank became Board Chairman and CEO at UNICA in July of 2007 and has since spearheaded a period of significant achievements for the sugar-energy industry.

Accomplishments include a much more intense dialogue with all levels of government; progress in various areas relating to labor, the environment, social concerns and the regulatory framework; and the establishment of a strong international presence with offices launched in Washington, D.C. and Brussels. These were crucial steps for the non-renewal at the end of 2011 of the steep tariff imposed by the United States on imported ethanol.

“It has been a great honor to serve an industry that is so important to national life and is increasingly vital for the planet, given the growing range of low carbon solutions that sugarcane offers; the sector has a very promising future and I’m sure that the work done so far will provide a solid base for the progress that we will witness in the future,” said Jank, who brought forward his departure from UNICA because of national and international commitments linked to future activities in his professional life.

Brazil Expects More Cane and More Ethanol in 2012

Brazil is expecting more sugarcane and more ethanol production in 2012.

UNICAAccording to the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), the forecast for the 2012/2013 sugarcane harvest calls for 509 million tons, up 3.19% compared to the total amount of sugarcane processed in the previous harvest, which totalled 493.26 million tons.

Data collected by UNICA, together with satellite image mapping of the South-Central region obtained from the National Institute for Space Research (CANASAT-INPE), indicates an expansion of 3% in the total area planted with sugarcane and available for the 2012/2013 harvest while no significant gains in agricultural productivity are anticipated.

Of the total projected sugarcane crush for the 2012/2013 harvest, UNICA estimates over half of the sugarcane in the 2012/2013 season (51.25%) will be used for ethanol production, which is expected to reach 21.49 billion liters, up 4.58% from last year’s 20.55 billion liters. That total includes 14.54 billion liters of hydrous ethanol, up 11% from last year, and the rest anhydrous, a drop of almost 7%.

UNICA is projecting a drop in anhydrous ethanol production because during six months of the 2011/2012 harvest, Brazil’s mandatory ethanol blend with gasoline remained at the 25% level, 5% above the 20% blend currently in place. The organization notes that the projected production for each type of ethanol in the new harvest was calculated considering the current blend rate. “Should the percentage required by the government change during the harvest, hydrous and anhydrous ethanol volumes will also be revised by UNICA.” UNICA is also projected a drop of more than 8% in ethanol exports, which would bring the exported total down to 1.70 billion liters, compared to 1.85 billion liters in the 2011/2012 harvest.

According to UNICA Technical Director Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, current estimates indicate that the Brazilian fleet of flex-fuel automobiles and motorcycles will increase by 7% during the 2012/2013 harvest, an expansion rate that’s slightly below the projected increase in production o hydrous ethanol. “This means we are likely to observe a slight increase in the consumption of hydrous ethanol by flex-fuel vehicles during the next harvest,” he said.