Petrobras commits $2.4 billion to biofuels

By Susanne Retka Schill | March 09, 2009
Web exclusive posted March 9, 2009, at 4:48 p.m. CST

Brazilian oil and biofuels producer Petrobras SA unveiled its business plan March 4, which calls for investments in the order of $2.4 billion in biodiesel and ethanol production for the next four years. More than 91 percent of that investment is to be made in Brazil.

In all, Petrobras has earmarked $2.8 billion for its biofuels business, which includes expenditures of $400 million in infrastructure such as ethanol pipelines. Another $530 million has been earmarked for biofuel research. The total resources represent an 87 percent increase in investment compared to the previous business plan, according to company information.

Of the $2.4 billion, 80 percent will be invested in ethanol, with the remainder invested in biodiesel. One of the company's goals is to produce 640 million liters (169 million gallons) of biodiesel in Brazil by 2013. The company expects to build a new plant in North Brazil, duplicate its Candeias plant and convert experimental plants in Guamare to commercial production. Production capacity at two other plants will be increased, the company said. A partnership with the Portuguese firm Galp Energia to produce biodiesel production in both Brazil and Portugal will continue. Deployment of a biodiesel production unit in Africa is also being planned.

The Petrobras' goal for ethanol production is to reach 1.9 billion liters (500 million gallons) by 2013 aimed at the foreign market and 1.8 billion liters (480 million gallons) for the domestic market. "The idea is to sign partnerships yet this year, for four new ethanol production projects involving a foreign partner," the company said. Some of the increased ethanol capacity may be done through acquisitions, with one ethanol plant under analysis in Columbia. The company also has plans to develop second-generation technologies based on residual biomass feedstock.

The announcement of its strategic business plan came two days after the company inaugurated its first unit to produce E3 in Japan in a joint venture with Japan Alcohol Trading called Brazil Japan Ethanol. BJE made its first delivery of E3 on March 2 to a gas station in Tokyo. Japan's Minister of the Environment Tetsuo Saito, Brazil's Ambassador to Japan Castro Neves, and Petrobras' General Manager in Japan, Osvaldo Kawakami, participated in an inaugural ceremony.
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