Brazilian sugarcane mills take steps required to export ethanol

By Holly Jessen | October 25, 2011

The number of Brazilian sugarcane mills registered with the U.S. EPA, a required step before exporting ethanol to the U.S., has nearly doubled since February. The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) reported Oct. 19 that 107 Brazilian Sugarcane processing facilities had completed the process. “The EPA has recognized Brazilian ethanol as an advanced biofuel because it can cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 91 percent compared to gasoline,” said Leticia Phillips, UNICCA’s representative in North America. “This recognition makes sugarcane ethanol desirable in the US market, so it makes sense for Brazilian mills to prepare for this opportunity.”

The majority of the sugarcane mills on the list have between one or two mills registered. However, Copersucar S.A. has 39 registered and Cosan S/A Acucar e Alcool & Cosan Alimentos S/A registered 15. In addition, 44 Brazilian mills have registered to export ethanol to California, which has separate and more stringent regulations.

Currently, the U.S. is exporting ethanol to Brazil, not the other way around. In 2010, U.S. exports of ethanol to Brazil were up about three times more than the total amount exported in the previous 12 years combined. In all, Brazil took in 22.6 million gallons of U.S. ethanol in 2010 compared to the 7.8 million gallons imported from 1998 to 2009. The trend of higher than typical U.S. exports to Brazil is continuing in 2011.

Brazil has been producing less-than usual amounts of ethanol in recent years. In fact, to avoid supply problems, the country has reduced the amount of ethanol blended in gasoline from 25 percent to 20 percent. “The global economic crisis, two consecutive harvests hurt by weather problems and other often overlooked factors have caused this drop, but this is a glitch in the long-term Brazilian ethanol scenario,” Phillips told attendees at the Third Renewable Energy Technology Conference & Exhibition, held in Washington from Sept. 20 to 22. The country’s imports in 2011 are expected to account for 4 percent of total production volumes, while exports add up to 6 percent of production volumes.