Brazil can increase biofuel plantations sixfold - Embrapa

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Brazil can increase planted areas for bioenergy sixfold without having to clear rainforest, according to state-run agricultural research firm Embrapa.

Embrapa general manager Manoel Texeira Souza Júnior said, during BNamericas' 11th Southern Cone Energy Summit, that up to 50mn hectares were available for future development.

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"If we can transfer 20% or 30% of that land into new [plantations] we will exceed our bioenergy goals without needing to chop down a single tree," Souza said at the Lima event.

According to Souza, the emergence of advanced biofuel technology will catapult productivity from existing sugarcane plantations.

The impact is expected to be felt by the ethanol industry and biomass-fired power generation, Souza added.

In September, Brazilian biofuel firm GranBio began producing second generation ethanol at its Bioflex 1 plant in the northeastern state of Alagoas.

Using straw and sugarcane bagasse as its primary feedstock, the plant is the first of its type to begin commercial operations in the southern hemisphere.

"Increasing the area is one way to go and increasing productivity is the other," Souza said, adding that efficient water use had become a key challenge. "We need to develop new irrigation techniques due to the water challenges facing Brazil. The technology is available but the question is how to manage water, for example, looking at using reused water from cities or ocean water."