Brazil is the world’s largest producer of sugarcane, from which it producers sugar (it is the largest producer globally), ethanol (second largest producer), electricity (from sugarcane residues) and other less relevant by-products such as molasses, yeast and bioplastics.
The main biomass feedstock for the production of electricity is bagasse (the residual dry fibre produced after the sugarcane is crushed during the milling process). Sugarcane leaf tops and straw are also collected to feed the high pressured boilers of the industrial plants. In addition, woodchips and other rapid growth plants, such as sweet sorghum can also feed the boilers for the production of green energy.
According to UNICA, the main industry association for sugar cane, Brazil’s use of biomass to produce electricity has reduced the country’s CO2 emissions by 24%; today, electricity from biomass is the third largest source of electricity in Brazil (after hydropower plants and natural gas) with 7% market share, having recently reached annual installed capacity of 10 thousand Megawatts (MW).
In Brazil’s centre-south region, the sugarcane harvest coincides with the dry season when hydroelectric production is at its lowest due to the main reservoirs being depleted. As bioelectricity from the sugarcane industry is produced near the main consumption centres, there is a limited need for investment in transmission infrastructure.
All 389 sugarcane mills in Brazil are self-sufficient in energy. Around 170 plants sell surplus energy to Brazil’s national grid. Glencore’s sugarcane crushing plant, Glencane, is equipped with two high pressured boilers that produce superheated steam, which in turn powers electricity generators (40 MW each) via two turbines. The electricity produced is sent to our substation, which is located on site and then subsequently to a regional substation 18 kilometres away, to be delivered to Brazil’s national grid.
In 2014, we produced 224,363 Megawatts hour (MWh) of energy from approximately 650,000 million tonnes of bagasse. Of this total, we consumed 74,306 MWh and sold the surplus of 150,057 MWh to the Brazilian National grid.
Our estimated electricity export capacity during 2015 is 221,898 MWh. A new investment of straw collection may increase this by a further 33,428 MWh.