ICM: Corn ethanol opportunities in South America continue to grow

By ICM Inc. | February 06, 2018

Encouraging news continues to flow from South America especially as Brazil outlines its national biofuels policy—RenovaBio. RenovaBio aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 43 percent, driven by the commitment made at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. The policy is an important step for the local biofuels industry, as GHG emission reduction certificates will place higher value on fuels with lower carbon intensity than petroleum. RenovaBio objectives include increasing renewable energy use, adding an economic value on emission reductions, driving technological innovation and providing predictability for investments as well as an overall drive for greater sustainability. Current industry forecasts estimate that domestic ethanol demand is expected to increase by 60 percent in 2018. By 2030, RenovaBio could result in domestic demand for as much as 40 billion liters of ethanol.

South America is home to some of the largest producers of ethanol in the world and it has a long tradition of biofuels consumption. As renewable energy policies in the region continue to evolve, ICM Inc., the industry-leader in the development and optimization of ethanol technologies, intends to provide solutions and services for the growing demand. ICM’s capabilities in corn ethanol processing include various technologies, engineering solutions, proprietary equipment, and customized services. The company is enthusiastic about the opportunities in South America.

In 2017, Brazil produced an estimated 27.7 billion liters (7.32 billion gallons) of ethanol. The demand for ethanol versus the current level of production has a gap of approximately 3 billion liters. This gap is expected to grow to 5 billion liters by 2022, which is currently filled by imports. Brazil’s recent increase on taxation of imported ethanol will stimulate growth in local production.

Argentina has several ethanol plants in operation with corn and sugarcane as feedstocks. In 2016, ethanol production in the country was 889 million liters, production in 2017 increased by around 13 percent, to 1 billion liters, while industry analyst forecast a record production year of 1.12 billion liters in 2018.  Argentina’s economy has shown resilience and positive recovery signs including the biofuels industry.

Paraguay is another example of a South American country with a favorable biofuels program utilizing cane and corn feedstocks. Paraguay is expanding its local ethanol production which will have a vast positive impact on its economic growth. 

ICM is actively engaged in supporting the expanding ethanol markets in the countries of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. ICM’s technologies and equipment solutions are currently used in ACA Bio Cooperative Limitada (ACA Bio), a 400 cubic meter per day nameplate capacity (40 MMgy) in Villa Maria, Cordoba, Argentina, FS Bioenergia, Brazil’s first standalone corn ethanol plant, a 530 cubic meter per day nameplate capacity (50 MMgy) in Lucas do Rio Verde, Mato Grosso, Brazil, and several other bolt-on integrated technologies in Paraguay.

ICM’s experience in South America, backed by years of knowledge in the industry, provides the ability to enhance existing facilities. Traditional sugarcane ethanol plants can integrate corn feedstock into their business model. The addition of corn ethanol processing can significantly increase profitability.

ICM’s grain-based ethanol bio-refineries also produce several other differentiated products including a high protein distillers grains (DDGS) which has been demonstrated in extensive feed trials to bring additional value in poultry, aquaculture, and swine rations.  Steve Hartig, vice president of technology development at ICM, said, “We see this technology bringing a sustainable benefit to the entire ethanol industry by maximizing the value of each hectare of corn.” Adding new plants or improving efficiencies in existing facilities promotes the economic growth in the region while advancing renewable energy and diminishing dependence on hydrocarbons, diversifying the energy matrix and reducing the impact on the environment.

South America has some of the highest corn producing regions in the world. The advantages that corn-based ethanol brings to the region can be beneficial socially and economically. ICM’s regional office in Sao Paulo, Brazil is strategically located to support ICM’s growing customer base in South America.