RECIFE, Brazil – Brazil will reopen its main biodiesel production plant to harness the energy contained in soybeans, the government of the northeastern state of Piaui announced on Sunday.
In a statement, the regional government said that the automated plant – located in the city of Floriano, some 1,350 kilometers (840 miles) to the north of the country’s capital, Brasilia – will be capable of producing 90 million liters (23.8 million gallons) of biodiesel per year following an investment of 60 million reais ($14.4 million).
The raw material used as fuel will be soy instead of the ricin extracted from castor beans, which used to be the main source for biodiesel when the plant was opened in 2004 by the state energy company Petrobras, with an annual production of 10.6 million liters, until it shut down in 2009.
The plant is now controlled by the private firm Unibras, which decided that using soy was more productive and competitive than ricin, according to Piaui’s secretary for economic development, Igor Neri.
In Brazil, apart from the fact that many motor vehicles use biodiesel as fuel, there’s a legal obligation to mix 11 percent of this combustible into commercial diesel. Authorities are even considering hiking that minimum to 15 percent.
The new plant will have the capacity to store two million liters of biodiesel and one million liters of raw soy slush.
Neighboring states such as Maranhao, Ceara and Pernambuco, in the northeast, and Para, in the Amazon region, have already shown interest in acquiring the biodiesel produced in Piaui, according to Unibras.
The governor of Piaui, Wellington Dias, celebrated the plant’s reopening and said it would be an important source of employment and income for residents of the state
Dias added that it would give more value to farm work and represent a way of adapting new technologies to produce renewable energy while decreasing pollution.
The Energy Research Company (EPE) has published a study forecasting that the South American country was set to import 77 billion liters of diesel made from petroleum or natural gas over the next nine years at a cost of $36 billion.
An increase in biodiesel production and a higher mandatory percentage for mixes could significantly reduce these expenses.
Biofuels saw a boom in the mid-2000s, when Brazil decided to promote the so-called “flex fuel” technology that allows cars to use gasoline, ethanol or a free combination of both fuels.
All newly-manufactured cars possess this technology, as well as most imported vehicles.
In addition, the government mandates that gasoline be mixed with a proportion of 27 percent of ethanol. The plan is to raise that ratio up to 40 percent by 2030.