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After its water is removed, this algae is destined to excrete biofuels. (SEE Algae)

Last week I wrote about two companies that are racing to be first in commercial-scale production of motor fuel from nonfood sources. A large group of other companies is pursuing various other strategies, one or two steps behind. One of those companies is planning to use algae.

The company, SEE Algae Technology of Austria, is building a 2.5-acre factory on a sugar plantation near Recife, Brazil, that will use genetically modified algae that can eat carbon dioxide from the sugar. Adding urea and some nutrients, the algae excrete ethanol.

The path to profitability, according to the company, is raising the amount of algae produced per unit of area. Algae grows in ponds, but that turns out to require a lot of space: sunlight does not penetrate more than a couple of inches, so the ponds must have big surfaces. The problem is that the carbon dioxide injected to promote algae growth tends to escape from a big surface.

SEE Algae’s solution is a silo that is 16 feet tall and has a volume of 177 cubic feet. Sunlight is directed all over the inside of the silo by optical fiber technology. Because the light is coming from multiple directions, the hardware can produce algae at a density up to 20 times greater than can be generated on a pond, according to Joachim Grill, the company’s chief executive.

The carbon dioxide source is a small electricity-producing plant that burns the part of the sugar cane that remains after the sugar has been extracted. (Brazilian sugar plantations have a second source of carbon dioxide: sugar is often used to make ethanol, and the yeast that digests the sugar and yields the ethanol also gives off a pure stream of carbon dioxide as well. Still, that carbon dioxide has more value when sold for edible uses like producing carbonated beverages, Dr. Grill said.)

The pilot plant, which is scheduled to be complete in May, will produce about 370,000 gallons of ethanol a year, Dr. Grill said. If it runs as planned, SEE Algae’s customer, Grupo JB, will add 14 more, all the same size. Even that would be small by the standards of commercial oil refineries, but it could turn out to be the first serious commercial production of ethanol from algae.

Using genetically altered algae to make ethanol is one route to biofuels, but SEE Algae has a second route in mind. Ordinary algae develops an oil as it grows, and this can be processed into a diesel substitute. The procedure involves removing the water and adding a solvent, generally hexane, that dissolves the cell wall so that the oil can be purified and processed.

But for the time being, Dr. Grill said, customers who follow that pathway do not bother making fuel from the oil. The reason is that the oil can also be processed into products with a higher profit margin, notably cosmetics and nutritional supplements, including Omega-3. “It’s a big rage,’’ he said of the latter.

Turning algae into fuel or other chemicals that are now made from oil could have commercial benefits when oil prices are high. But it could also make financial sense in countries that have put a price on carbon dioxide emissions to combat global warming, since the algae consume the carbon and reuse it in their product.

(If that product is fuel, the carbon will be released when the ethanol or biodiesel is burned. But environmentally, that is better than releasing carbon that had been sequestered deep underground as oil.)

Author: Matthew L. Wald
Source: The New York Times
Original: http://goo.gl/y2V1b


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Biofuels made from algae, promoted by President Barack Obama as a possible way to help wean Americans off foreign oil, cannot be made now on a large scale without using unsustainable amounts of energy, water and fertilizer, the U.S. National Research Council reported on Wednesday.

“Faced with today’s technology, to scale up any more is going to put really big demands on … not only energy input, but water, land and the nutrients you need, like carbon dioxide, nitrate and phosphate,” said Jennie Hunter-Cevera, a microbial physiologist who headed the committee that wrote the report.

Hunter-Cevera stressed that this is not a definitive rejection of algal biofuels, but a recognition that they may not be ready to supply even 5 percent, or approximately 10.3 billion gallons (39 billion liters), of U.S. transportation fuel needs.

“Algal biofuels is still a teenager that needs to be developed and nurtured,” she said by telephone.

The National Research Council is part of the National Academies, a group of private nonprofit institutions that advise government on science, technology and health policy.

Its sustainability assessment was requested by the Department of Energy, which has invested heavily in projects to develop the alternative fuel.

In 2009, the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture awarded San Diego-based Sapphire Energy Inc more than $100 million in grants and loan guarantees to help build a plant in New Mexico that will produce commercial quantities of algal biofuel. Two other companies received smaller amounts of federal assistance.

In February, as gasoline prices spiraled, Obama said algal biofuels had the potential to cut U.S. foreign oil dependence. He estimated that U.S. oil imports used for transportation could be cut substantially.

The National Research Council report shows that the government should continue research on algal biofuel as well as other technologies that reduce oil use, an Energy Department spokeswoman said.

“Today’s report outlines the need for continued research and development to make algal biofuel sustainable and cost-competitive, but it also highlights the long-term potential of this technology and why it is worth pursuing,” Jen Stutsman said in a statement.

The council’s report noted that future innovations, and increased production efficiencies, could enhance the viability of algal biofuels.

GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS

It said a main reason to use alternative fuels for transportation is to cut climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions created by burning fossil fuel. But estimates of greenhouse emissions from algal biofuels cover a wide range, with some suggesting that over their life cycle, the fuels release more climate-warming gas than petroleum, it said.

The product now made in small quantities by Sapphire uses algae, sunlight and carbon dioxide as feedstocks to make fuel that is not dependent on food crops or farmland. The company calls it “green crude.”

Tim Zenk, a Sapphire vice president, said the company has worked for five years on the sustainability issues examined in the report. “The NRC has acknowledged something that the industry has known about in its infancy and began to address immediately,” he said.

He said Sapphire recycles water and uses land that is not suitable for agriculture at its New Mexico site, where it hopes to make 100 barrels of algal biofuel a day by 2014.

The U.S. Navy used algal biofuel along with fuel made from cooking oil waste as part of its “Green Fleet” military exercises demonstration this summer, drawing fire from Republican lawmakers for its nearly $27 per gallon cost.

The council study also said it was unclear whether producing that much biofuel from algae would actually lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The report shows the strategy is too risky, said Friends of the Earth, an environmental group.

“Algae production poses a double-edged threat to our water resources, already strained by the drought,” Michal Rosenoer, a biofuels campaigner with the group, said in a statement.

Industry group Algal Biomass Organization focused on the positives in its statement.

“We hope that policymakers and others involved in the future of the domestic fuel industry will recognize the NRC’s conclusion that sustainability concerns are not a definitive barrier to future growth.”

(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Christopher Wilson)

Author: Roberta Rampton and Deborah Zabarenko
Source: Reuters
Original: http://goo.gl/10irx


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A pilot project in Karratha, that creates algae for use as biofuel, has reached its final milestone under the Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) fund.

The Western Australian Government’s LEED fund supports technology that cuts greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector.

Aurora Algae was allocated $2 million to help develop a system using carbon dioxide, seawater and sunshine to produce algae which is turned into biofuel, stock feed and dietary supplements.

Plans are underway to construct a larger scale commercial plant in the next couple of years, with the aim of supplying the local mining industry with biodiesel.

Aurora’s Matthew Caspari says the grant required the project to reach 10 targets, including running a vehicle on its biofuel.

“Integrating different pieces of the process, so our production process to our harvesting process and actually drying to create the end product and we also had a milestone tied towards producing biofuel from the facility and running a vehicle on it,” he said.

“To have these successful results and the technology we are very excited and we are looking forward to the next stage which is the commercial project.”

Source: ABC News
Original: http://goo.gl/Pvvhc


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A empresa austríaca SAT (See Algae Technology), fornecedora de infraestrutura para produção industrial de algas, iniciará nos primeiros meses do ano que vem a construção da planta adjacente à usina de Vitória de Santo Antão, no Recife, no primeiro projeto do mundo em escala industrial para a fabricação de biocombustível a partir de microalgas marinhas.

A expectativa da companhia, sediada em Viena, é que as operações tenham início já no quarto trimestre de 2013. A unidade terá capacidade de produção de até 1,2 milhão de litros de biodiesel de algas por ano.

A produção de combustíveis a partir de microalgas é uma aposta dos pesquisadores para as novas gerações de biocombustíveis limpos – não oriundos de fontes fósseis.

Muitos países, incluído o Brasil, debruçam-se em estudos nessa área já há algum tempo. Com rápida reprodução e boa produtividade de óleo, elas são vistas como opção plausível de alternativa ao petróleo. E ainda têm uma vantagem imbatível: não entram em conflito na disputa por terras agrícolas, questão-chave para a segurança alimentar.

Para crescer e se multiplicar, algas precisam de água (o meio onde vivem), luz (para a fotossíntese) e nutrientes, como fertilizantes e CO2. Até agora, a grande dificuldade tem sido baratear o alto custo de produção. Especulações recentes do mercado jogavam o preço do litro a R$ 20, graças ao processo de concentração, separação e secagem desses vegetais, que exigem peças caras e com alto consumo de energia.

Com as novas tecnologias apresentadas pela empresa austríaca, o preço do biocombustível na usina será similar ao do etanol de cana – entre R$ 0,80 e R$ 1 o litro, diz a SAT.

Isso porque algumas mudanças importantes foram feitas. A primeira foi trocar a produção em lagoas a céu aberto para espécies de “silos” de até cinco metros. A vantagem desse processo é que não há contaminação da produção, já que não há interferência do ambiente externo. A segunda, e mais significativa, é a melhor distribuição da iluminação para a reprodução das algas. “Nas lagoas, apenas as microalgas que estão na superfície recebem o sol. As que estão um pouco mais abaixo ficam competindo por luz e nutrientes, o que reduz a produtividade”, diz Bianchini.

O pulo do gato, diz o executivo, foi o desenvolvimento de um prisma solar que transfere a luz do sol para os reatores (silos) através de fibras óticas. Com isso, os silos são iluminados por dentro de alto a baixo. Além disso, serão ligados através de tubulações à chaminé da usina de Vitória de Santo Antão, por onde passará o CO2 gerado na queima do bagaço da cana. “O custo de energia, alto em outros processos, será zero porque nossa matéria-prima será o sol e o CO2 “.

Segundo o diretor da SAT, cerca de 50% das algas resultam em óleo para biocombustíveis e a outra metade em biomassa. Por ser proteica, essa biomassa é utilizada como substituição para a soja na alimentação de rebanhos na pecuária e na criação de peixes. Ainda segundo Bianchini, em um segundo momento a planta poderá ser utilizada também para produzir bioetanol a partir de algas geneticamente modificadas. Para isso, no entanto, ainda é preciso obter validação da Agência Nacional de Petróleo (ANP).

Autor: Bettina Barros
Fonte: Instituto Carbono Brasil / Ecofidelidade
Original: http://goo.gl/Di9J1


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Indigenous smallholder farmers are being violently evicted as companies move in to satisfy Europe’s hunger for biofuels


Evicted indigenous Maya face the security forces in Guatemala’s Polochic valley in March 2011. (Faces and clothes have been obscured to protect identities) Photograph: Campesino Unity Committee/Oxfam

Maria Josefa Macz and Daniel Pascual were called at five in the morning, and asked to come quickly to the Polochic valley in southern Guatemala. Ethnic Maya Q’eqchi communities of smallholder farmers said they were being violently evicted by state security forces from land they had farmed for generations. Helicopters with armed men leaning out were flying overhead, private security guards and paramilitary forces were attacking people, and houses and crops were being burned. The farmers could not speak Spanish and needed help dealing with the police, as well as legal advice on how to stop giant biofuel companies taking their land.

When Macz and Pascual, human rights workers from the Guatemala Campesino Unity Committee (CUC), arrived after a six-hour drive from the capital, Guatemala City, two of the communities had been brutally evicted. Over the next four days, 10 more villages were cleared. By the end of March 2011, around 800 families – about 3,200 people from 14 communities – had been forced off land they believed they had a right to live and work on. Within months, hundreds of hectares of the lush valley in the province of Alta Verapaz were being planted with sugar cane that would be turned into ethanol for European cars, including British ones.

Today, displaced families live by the side of the road with no access to shelter or food. “The men fled to the mountains, the women had to find a way to live. People lost everything; they became nothing but cheap labour,” says Macz.

“It was a military operation. It was like an invasion. We feel history is repeating itself and we are going back to the violence of 30 years ago,” says Pascual, referring to the massacre by the army of 60 people in the nearby town of Panzós in 1978. The US-backed government claimed their troops were turning back a peasant invasion fomented by “international subversives”. The reality was that the peasants were petitioning the mayor for land.

There is a long history of land disputes in the Polochic valley and across Guatemala, with companies claiming title over land that communities believe they have bought or have historical rights over. In this case, the land had been sold to one company by a larger one that had been receiving rent from the communities, who had been on the land for generations. At the time of the evictions, the land was under threat of foreclosure and negotiations were taking place with the government.

But the unprecedented worldwide rush for land to grow food or fuel crops for the international market is now hitting some of the poorest communities hard, and leaving them at risk of violence and landlessness. Guatemala is now one of the world centres for growing biofuel crops.

In Guatemala, says Pascual, who is petitioning European governments and the UN over the atrocity, more than 300 requests for land have been made in the past few years by large companies to mine for gold, silver and nickel; prospect for oil; develop hydroelectric power; or grow biofuel crops. More than 150 other areas have been identified as places of potential conflict over resources. The Polochic valley has been earmarked by international companies as suitable for biofuel crops.

The 2008 decision by EU countries to obtain 10% of all transport fuels from biofuels by 2020 has proved to be the catalyst for many evictions, says Oxfam. To meet the EU target, the total land area required to grow industrial biofuels in developing countries has been estimated as 17.5m hectares (43.2m acres), more than half the size of Italy.

“What happened in the Polochic valley exemplifies what is now happening all over the world. The latest data suggests up to 203m hectares of land has been acquired by companies in land deals and two-thirds of that is for biofuels,” says Hannah Stoddart, economic justice adviser at Oxfam. “The UK government should immediately freeze its biofuel targets and call on the EU to scrap the directive. There is a mass undermining of rights and livelihoods, and no improvement in food supplies. They are just diverting food for stomachs to gas tanks.”

Author: John Vidal
Source: The Guardian
Original: http://goo.gl/Lm8l1


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May 18 (Reuters) – After a decade of promise, advanced biofuels makers are entering a crucial make-or-break period with the first of a new generation of production facilities about to come on line.

The new facilities are designed to take biofuels beyond corn-based ethanol and begin to shift the industry to “advanced” fuels made with a lower carbon footprint derived from products that will not compete with demand for food.

Many of the companies are turning to cellulosic plant materials, animal waste and plant oils to churn out millions of gallons of ethanol, diesel, jet fuel or components for gasoline.

Driving the industry are U.S. government targets stretching out a decade that call for fuel suppliers to blend billions of gallons of the new biofuels into the U.S. gasoline and diesel pools, on top of the corn ethanol that already makes up about 10 percent of the gasoline market.

The targets have helped biofuel companies develop strategies and lay out expansion plans, but they do not rely on the tax incentives or subsidies that helped the solar and wind industries.

Aside from the federal volume targets, “these guys in almost all cases are not relying on subsidies,” said Rob Stone, an analyst at Cowen & Co in Boston.

But even with the growth and new investments, investors will likely have to wait for the technology to prove itself over the coming years before receiving big payoffs.

Among the most anticipated of the new production plants is KiOR Inc’s Columbus, Mississippi, facility. The company expects to begin production in the second half of 2012 and turn wood products into components, or blendstocks, that can be used in gasoline and diesel fuel.

The KiOR plant will process farmed Southern Yellow Pine trees at the equivalent of about $25 per barrel of oil, or about one-quarter the price U.S. crude oil.

Nearly 400 million gallons of new biofuels production is expected to go on line this year in the United States, according to data compiled by industry publication Biofuels Digest.

Another 1.7 billion gallons of additional capacity is forecast to start up from the beginning of 2013 through 2015, bringing total capacity to nearly 2.3 billion gallons.

Among others under construction are Altair’s Washington plant, which will produce jet fuel from carmelina, an oily flowering plant; and Diamond Green’s facility in Louisiana, which will convert animal fat and used cooking oil into diesel fuel under a joint venture with refiner Valero Energy Corp .

Many of the nascent biofuels companies have been working for years to develop technology that can cheaply turn cellulosic sugars or waste materials into energy and have even attracted investment from the world’s top oil companies.

Those advances have come in several areas. Researchers have developed new biochemical catalysts to break down tough cellulosic material, used new techniques to turn solid materials into gas and created advanced ‘hydroprocessing’ refining methods to break heavy hydrocarbons into lighter, more easily burned fuels.

BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Corp and Total SA have all taken stakes in companies that focus on a wide variety of fuels from traditional sugar cane ethanol to gasoline and diesel.

Still other companies, including Gevo Inc and Butamax, a joint venture of BP Plc and Dupont, are building plants to produce biobutanol from corn starches or other agricultural products to produce ‘drop-in’ components for gasoline or chemicals with a higher energy content than traditional ethanol.

“I think there’s room for multiple fuels to contribute to the fuel mix,” Butamax CEO Paul Beckwith said in an interview.

Gevo, which is locked in a patent lawsuit with Butamax, expects to start up a converted ethanol plant next month that will produce butanol using corn cellulose as a feedstock. It expects to shift to materials such as switch grass, waste wood products or agricultural by-products such as corn cobs and stalks and sugarcane bagasse in the future.

INVESTORS MAY NEED TO BE PATIENT

Authorized under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard 2 calls for 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels to be delivered annually by 2022, on top of a target of 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol.

The advanced biofuels target could be reduced if producers fail to bring adequate production on line and oil industry lobby group the American Petroleum Institute has already filed a lawsuit challenging the goal as unrealistically high.

Companies that are required under the EPA rules to buy biofuels to meet the target can instead purchase credits based on actual volumes produced through the Renewable Identification Number system, or RINs. While not a direct subsidy, those RINs can be worth between about $2 to $5 per gallon for biofuel producers, although the RIN market remains in its infancy.

A separate $1.01 gallon subsidy for cellulosic biofuels is set to expire at the end of this year and industry experts do not expect the U.S. Congress to extend that incentive. So far, its impact has been modest because fuels that would qualify for it have only been produced in low volumes.

With a capacity of 62.5 million gallons per year, KiOR’s $222 million Columbus plant will be the largest of its kind in the United States and is expected to produce fuel at about $1.10 per gallon, well below the current NYMEX wholesale gasoline price of nearly $3 per gallon.

KiOR has already sold the planned output from the plant to Hunt Refining, FedEx Corp and Catchlight Energy, a joint venture between Chevron and forest products company Weyerhaeuser Co.

KiOR and others such as Codexis Inc, Amyris Inc , Solazyme Inc and Renewable Energy Group Inc have all successfully tapped into the public markets, although their shares have all fallen below their launch prices.

Given the diverse slate of fuels, feedstocks and company strategies in the industry, investors may need to be patient to see which companies emerge as the best in the sector.

“We’re still very early from an investment perspective of picking winners,” Cowen said.

Another 300 companies are trying to develop technology to break into the market, according to Mike Ritzenthaler, an analyst with Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis, with perhaps 20 of those potentially on track to seek IPOs in the next few years.

“All of these guys are looking for money,” Ritzenthaler said.

Still, Canadian-based Enerkem’s move to pull its planned $138 million IPO showed that Wall Street may be growing wary of pouring new money into the sector.

Investors viewed Enerkem’s municipal solid waste-to-biofuels technology as too risky because it has never been shown to work in large quantities and the company forecast its losses would grow as it sought to build production plants.

“Early on, investors were willing to look out four or more years, but now they want to see positive EBITDA,” Ritzenthaler said.

Enerkem said in its filings that it planned to make bioethanol at $1.50 to $1.70 per gallon, although analysts feared the company’s cheap waste feedstocks could grow scarce if competitors emerged.

Still, several other companies have filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for public stock offerings, including Genomatica, Myriant, Mascoma Corp, Coskata, Fulcrum Bioenergy, BioAmber and Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc.

Mascoma, which has received financial backing from Valero Energy, Marathon Oil Corp and a General Motors Co investment fund, has said it was targeting operating costs of $1.77 per gallon for ethanol produced from hardwood.

Coskata, backed by France’s Total, expects a commercial plant in Alabama to produce fuel-grade cellulosic ethanol from softwood at an unsubsidized operating cost of less than $1.50 per gallon.

CREATING AN INDUSTRY WITH TECHNOLOGY

Crucial to making the fuels economic is securing an ample, economic stream of feedstocks that can be cheaply turned into fuel, industry executives.

Renewable Energy Group, whose shares debuted in January, produces biodiesel from animal, plant oil and recycled restaurant oils, says feedstocks have typically been between 85 percent to 90 percent of the cost of producing the fuel.

The company has about 210 million gallons of capacity and has more than 100 suppliers for its feedstock.

“We are really trying to use these things that have a great carbon footprint and are messy to deal with,” CEO Daniel Oh said. “What we’ve essentially done is create real optionality across the feedstocks.”

Even with the growth expected over the next few years, many industry executives are wary of promising an energy revolution that could lead to unrealistic expectations.

“What we’re doing is we’re creating an industry with technology,” said Kevin Weiss, CEO of Byogy Renewables, which makes jet fuel and gasoline from ethanol. “It’s pioneering for the next 20 to 30 years. It’s not pioneering for tomorrow.” (Reporting By Matt Daily in New York; Editing by Patricia Kranz and Andre Grenon)

Author: Matt Daily
Source: The HuffPost Green / REUTERS
Original: http://huff.to/Kvr68k


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Segundo Agência Ambiental dos EUA, óleo não tem vantagens verdes. Governo, Petrobras e Vale investem na planta para geração de biodiesel.


Cultura de palma está em expansão no Brasil; produção de biodiesel estimula crescimento. (Foto: Agência Petrobras)

O óleo de palma, mais conhecido no Brasil como dendê, é uma das apostas brasileiras para produção de biodiesel. Uma área já desmatada de até 318 mil km² (maior que o Rio Grande do Sul), localizada principalmente na região Norte, poderia ser ocupada pelo cultivo, de acordo com zoneamento agroambiental feito pela Embrapa. Petrobras, Vale e o governo federal, através do Programa de Produção Sustentável de Óleo de Palma, estão envolvidos na iniciativa.

No entanto, as vantagens verdes do produto foram colocadas em xeque pela Agência de Proteção Ambiental dos Estados Unidos (EPA, na sigla em inglês), que avaliou a emissão de CO2 no processo de produção, principalmente no desmatamento que pode ser gerado devido ao aumento a área plantada.

“A análise da EPA mostra que o biodiesel e o diesel renovável produzidos a partir do óleo da palma (…) não se qualificam para os requisitos mínimos de redução de 20% das emissões de gases de efeito estufa [em comparação com o petróleo bruto]”, diz comunicado da agência publicado em 27 de janeiro.

Demanda

A afirmação da EPA se baseia em um estudo que analisou a expansão mundial da palma para suprir o aumento da demanda dos EUA por biodiesel.

“O cenário projeta que Indonésia e Malásia serão os principais provedores de óleo de palma para biodiesel e que regiões na África, Tailândia e América Latina contribuiriam com volumes menores”.

Na Indonésia e na Malásia, o crescimento da produção de palma ocasionaria um aumento de áreas plantadas de cerca de 1 mil km², segundo a EPA. “Projetamos que 80% dessa área são florestas e áreas mistas [florestas e campos ou pastos]”, afirma o órgão ambiental.

Assim, o desmatamento aumentaria a pegada de carbono do biodiesel de óleo de palma. Além disso, a EPA avaliou de modo negativo a emissão de carbono pelos resíduos gerados no processo de produção do biodiesel.

Segundo o ministério do Desenvolvimento Agrário, a expansão da produção de palma no Brasil será feita com “desmatamento zero” e não vai gerar impacto ambiental.

“A nossa primeira preocupação é proibir o desmatamento. Não queremos que nosso programa ocorra na mesma ótica de programas como os da Ásia (…) Não podemos deixar que [o plantio da palma] prejudique a biodiversidade”, afirmou Marco Antonio Viana Leite, coordenador geral de biocombustíveis do ministério. Para ele, o plantio de palma ajudaria a evitar o desmatamento, pois forneceria alternativa de renda em áreas ameaçadas, aliviando a pressão à floresta.

De acordo com Alexandre Alonso, pesquisador da Embrapa Agroenergia, “a expansão [da palma] no Brasil vem sendo apoiada por estudos prévios, como o de zoneamento agroecológico”. A área identificada, com 318 mil km², foi desmatada até 2008 e poderia receber o plantio do dendê sem prejuízo para as matas nativas, segundo o governo.

A plantação da palma fora das áreas identificadas é proibida. Além disso, para obter financiamentos públicos é preciso ter a propriedade regularizada e reserva legal.

Produção


Mudas da Petrobras, que vai investir R$900 milhões e pretende produzir até 420 mil toneladas de biodiesel de palma até 2018 (Foto: Agência Petrobras)

O investimento da Petrobrás na geração de biodiesel de palma é de R$ 900 milhões. A estatal estima que vai produzir anualmente 420 mil toneladas do biocombustível até 2018, quando toda sua capacidade estiver instalada, segundo sua assessoria de imprensa.

A Vale – que comprou em 2011 uma das maiores empresas do setor, a Biopalma – também aposta no biodiesel de palma. Ela pretende investir US$ 633 milhões para colocar em funcionamento cinco fábricas extratoras do óleo, com capacidade de produção de até 360 mil toneladas a partir de 2015. O biodiesel seria usado para abastecer as operações da mineradora na região Norte, como locomotivas e equipamentos.

Já o Programa de Produção Sustentável de Óleo de Palma, voltado para a agricultura familiar, prevê dobrar a área plantada e a produção nos próximos dois anos, atingindo 240 mil hectares e 4,3 milhões de toneladas. Por enquanto, toda a produção é destinada para geração de óleo comestível. Mas o biodiesel também é um componente importante do projeto, de acordo com Viana Leite, do ministério de Desenvolvimento Agrário.

A Embrapa também atua na área do dendê. Ela realiza pesquisa sobre o aprimoramento genético da planta, além de produzir sementes para a expansão do cultivo. De acordo com Alonso, a demanda é cada vez maior. Somente em 2011, foram cerca de 1,5 milhão de sementes, um aumento de 65% em relação a 2010. Em 2012, a expectativa é de elevar a produção para 2 milhões, segundo a unidade da Embrapa de Manaus.

União Europeia

As críticas ao biodiesel de óleo de palma não vêm apenas da EPA. A versão online do jornal britânico “Guardian” publicou em 27 de janeiro dados de um documento vazado da União Europeia que dizem que a produção emite mais CO2 que o petróleo bruto. A análise também leva em conta o desmatamento.

A Petrobras, a Vale e o Programa de Produção Sustentável de Óleo de Palma, juntos, devem atingir uma área plantada de cerca de 6,3 mil km² (equivalente a três cidades de São Paulo) em 2018, triplicando a extensão atual.

Um dos principais atrativos para o plantio é sua alta produtividade. Enquanto a soja produz em torno de 500 kg a 600 kg de óleo por hectare, a palma gera até dez vezes mais, entre 5 mil a 6 mil kg, explica Alonso, da Embrapa.

“No Brasil, os projetos da Petrobras Biocombustível estão sendo implementados de forma que todo o processo produtivo — da matéria-prima à produção industrial — siga padrões de sustentabilidade baseados em princípios internacionais. (…) Eles estão alinhados às discussões mais atuais e foram elaborados com base na legislação brasileira, no posicionamento de órgãos de defesa do meio ambiente e de governos de vários países”, afirmou a Petrobras, em nota.

Autor: Amanda Rossi
Fonte: Globo Natureza
Original: http://glo.bo/ABrCVK


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