After “perfect storm”, bioenergy offers solutions for post-pandemic recovery

In the plenary session “The role of Bioenergy post COVID-19”, participated Luis Zubizarreta, president of the Argentine Chamber of Biofuels (CARBIO); Patrick Adam, Executive Director of the Argentine Maize Bioethanol Chamber; Suani Teixeira Coelho, coordinator of the Bioenergy Research Group (GBIO) and member of the Institute of Energy and Environment (IEE) of the University of Sao Paulo (USP) in Brazil; Juan Sebastián Diaz, regional ethanol consultant for Latin America at the US Grains Council in the United States; and Agustín Torroba, international specialist in Biofuels at IICA.

San José, October 16, 2020 (IICA). – The restriction on circulation imposed by governments in almost the entire planet caused a great decrease in the demand for fuels and biofuels, causing great economic losses and serious logistical and production problems.

But, after the catastrophe, the sector begins to expand again and foresees increases in the production of bioethanol from corn in Argentina, a growing use of biofuels in aviation and maritime cargo, and a greater role for biogas and biomethane.

These were the scenarios exposed in the III plenary of the International Conference on Applied Bioeconomy, carried out virtually through the online platforms of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

It is the first time that Latin America has hosted the International Conference on Applied Bioeconomy, the 2020 edition of which came to the region from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Argentina and IICA, co-organizers of this year’s event together with the Consortium International Applied Bioeconomy Research (ICABR).

The International Conference on Applied Bioeconomy is considered the main space in the world dedicated to defining, discussing and developing the potential of the bioeconomy for development and the event attracts every year the participation and attention of professionals of agronomic sciences and universities. and the world’s leading educational centers.

In the plenary session entitled “The role of Bioenergy post COVID-19”, participated Luis Zubizarreta, president of the Argentine Chamber of Biofuels (CARBIO); Patrick Adam, Executive Director of the Argentine Maize Bioethanol Chamber; Suani Teixeira Coelho, coordinator of the Bioenergy Research Group (GBIO) and member of the Institute of Energy and Environment (IEE) of the University of Sao Paulo (USP) in Brazil; Juan Sebastián Diaz, regional ethanol consultant for Latin America at the US Grains Council in the United States; and Agustín Torroba, international specialist in Biofuels at IICA.

Analyzing the cases by country, Adam highlighted that the demand for Argentine bioethanol had a record drop of 88% in the months of maximum isolation, and then began a slower than expected recovery process.

In the case of Brazil, the country went through a similar situation, with a 50% decline and the aggravating factor that prices fell 35% during the pandemic. To this was added that many mills, not having facilities for the production of sugar, were left without storage capacity to continue producing. Teixeira Coelho described the situation as the “perfect storm.”

For his part, Sebastián Diaz estimated the losses of the bioethanol industry caused by the pandemic at USD 7,000 million. In the United States, the recovery is being faster than in Argentina and Brazil, since the consumption of bioethanol is just 4% below the levels of 2019. Even so, the final result for the year would register a drop of 20% compared to to 2019.

To face these economic losses and serious logistical and production problems, the panelists highlighted the contribution of biofuels and their production through biorefineries.

According to Adam, the contribution of the bioethanol industry is essential for the strengthening of the Argentine regional economies. Also to save foreign exchange for the substitution of gasoline imports and the fulfillment of the objectives assumed by Argentina to reduce its carbon emissions.

He added that there is much room to grow in the production of bioethanol from corn, since Argentina exports 64% of the production of the unprocessed cereal. A much higher figure compared to Brazil (36%) and the US (14%).

Luis Zubizarreta referred to the biorefinery (a process to produce biofuels) and how the Argentine biodiesel industry has served as an engine for the development of other industries.

He highlighted that glycerin exports are exceeding USD 100 million annually and raised the challenge of scaling up to new products such as bioplastics, pesticides and fertilizers. He called for the removal of obstacles to export and described examples in which biofuel is used in pure form without any type of engine problems.

Suani Teixeira Coelho referred to the important role that biogas and biomethane play in Brazil’s circular bioeconomy. He added that the number of plants has been registering sustained growth, in some cases with innovative projects, such as the injection of biomethane into the natural gas network and the start-up of a small-scale solid waste gasification unit.

He also explained the details of the operation of RenovaBio, the program by which decarbonisation credits are offset to producers of biofuels that reduce carbon emissions and said that the program is being studied to extend to other sectors of the economy.

Sebastián Diaz also referred to the possibility that bioethanol offers as an ally in the use of gasoline, as it is the cheapest source of octane on the market. He stressed that implementing a 10% cut in gasoline with bioethanol is something very simple that can be done at any time. And he added that biofuel can also be a complement to electric mobility, referring to the e-Bio Fuel-Cell prototype presented by the Nissan company that is equipped with a solid oxide fuel cell.

Torroba, in turn, warned that in America 100 million inhabitants live in cities with air pollution problems and that transportation is responsible for 14% of greenhouse gas emissions.

He reported that while electric car sales were record 2019, they barely covered 2.6% of total sales, with 90% recorded in China, Europe and the US.

“The transition to electric mobility will be very slow, especially in Latin America, where the electric infrastructure is more fragile. Biofuels will integrate the new mobility paradigms, especially in the aviation and maritime trade sectors, since they are undergoing strong pressures to decarbonise ”, explained Torroba.

More information:
IICA Institutional Communication Management.
comunicacion.institucional@iica.int

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