Friday, 30 March 2012

March 27 - Ethanol

All vehicles in Brazil have had their engines modified to use 85% ethanol/15% petrol mix (Australia has 7-10% ethanol content I think). Today we visited an ethanol production plant. This facility is geared up to use sugar cane and sorghum to produce ethanol.
The sugar cane is pressed once for juice for production of sugar. The remaining juice and plant residue is converted for ethanol production. Sugar cane is the preferrred option for ethanol production but when not in season, specially bred sorghum varieties with a high sugar/brix level are used to ensure the ethanol plant runs all year round. The plant we visited was considered a small plant. We were informed there are another 455 medium - large ethanol producing plants in Brazil.
The sugar cane scholar travelling with us gave some background on the Australian cane industry. Apparently we have only one ethanol production plant because we seem to have a strong reliance on oil based fuels and there is no government mandate to increase the ethanol content in our fuel supply. Even though ethanol would result in less omissions than oil based fuels. This is a complex subject but it does seem surprising that we are not utilizing our waste bio-mass product to produce ethanol, such as the example in Brazil. In the afternoon/evening we flew to Brasilia, the political capital of Brazil.

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