Brazil has been at the forefront of biofuel adoption globally and a high-level delegation led by President Jair Bolsonaro recently held bilateral meetings with counterparts in India. Eduardo Leão de Sousa, Executive Director of UNICA (Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association) who was part of the delegation is optimistic that the two countries will deepen engagement in the biofuel sector. Brazil’s ethanol industry is hopeful India will accelerate its ethanol production on the back of policy initiatives, the director told ETEnergyWorld in an exclusive interview.
What drove Brazil towards focusing on ethanol as a sustainable fuel option?
It started primarily due to our quest for energy security. The trigger was the oil shock of the mid-70s and the major driver was the need to decrease reliance on oil imports because during those times Brazil imported more than 80 per cent of its crude oil requirement. Brazil has been one of the largest producers of sugarcane for some time now and policy makers back then started exploring the idea of diverting some of the industry towards producing ethanol.
Over a period of 40 years our capabilities improved and now we have come to a stage where we are able to substitute 40-50 per cent of our petrol use with ethanol. While the move helped us reduce our oil import dependence and displace the requirement of petrol by ethanol, there were other benefits which were visible later, like reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and improvement in air quality in major cities.
Gasoline sold in our country has 27 per cent ethanol blended in it. Also, practically 80 per cent of our fleet has flex fuel engines which allow the cars to run on more than one fuel and can also run on 100 per cent ethanol.
Sugarcane production in India is driven by the state of rainfall during the year. Erratic monsoons impact sugarcane production, which in turn dents ethanol production. How does Brazil deal with this unpredictably and its cascading impact on ethanol production?
This is the beauty of flexibility, which Brazil has achieved over the years. A majority of the mills in Brazil can produce either sugar or ethanol. So, they have two pathways as the produce can either go to sugar mills or ethanol distilleries.