Thursday, July 31, 2008

Petrobas starts up a biodiesel plant

Brazil's Petrobras starts commercial biodiesel production

Technicians work in a new biodiesel station, at Petrobras oil and
natural gas treatment and process unit pole of Guamare, some 180km
northeast of Natal, northern edge of Brazil. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Candeias, Brazil (AFP) July 29, 2008
Brazil's state-run oil group Petrobras started commercial production
of biodiesel Tuesday, ignoring the food versus biofuel controversy
already dogging the planting of crops to make carburant.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva inaugurated the first of three
plants Petrobras is to open this year to turn out the biodiesel.

It is located in Candeias, a town 55 kilometers (35 miles) from the
northern city of Salvador de Bahia, and has a capacity of 57 million
liters (15 million gallons) per year.

"Brazil must not be afraid of this international biofuel debate. We
want this discussion, and we are not going to flee from it," said

The Brazilian president has frequently and fiercely rejected claims
that his country is contributing to the current crisis caused by high
food prices by encouraging biofuel crop cultivation on arable land.

Brazil is the second-biggest producer of biofuel in the world, after
the United States, and the biggest exporter. It currently makes 15
billion liters of ethanol from sugarcane per year, and exports nearly
a third of that.

It stands behind biofuel as a means to reduce the dependency on oil,
and to combat global warming by cutting greenhouse gases generated by
fossil fuels.

Brazil already uses biodiesel as a three-percent additive to its
standard petro-based diesel. The government's plan to increase that
mix to five percent in 2010 may be advanced by the push to embrace

According to the ministry for agricultural development, the country
already makes enough biodiesel for its current needs, 840 million
liters produced from vegetable-oil generating crops grown by 40,000

Petrobras's biofuels division intends to increase overall biofuel
production over the next four years by acquiring factories and forming
strategic alliances with companies.

Lula said Brazil would tackle the controversy surrounding the
production in November, when an international conference would be
hosted to allow dialog "without tempers, but with scientific bases, on
the supposed competition between biofuels and food."

He said the meeting would look at the "real" reasons for
carbon-dioxide production and the rise in food prices.

Petrobras president Jose Sergio Gabrielli acknowledged that Brazil's
biofuels strategy was under attack, but affirmed that the critics
"attribute to our program problems that don't come from it."

He also said the foundation of the biodiesel production would be "the
promotion of family farming."

Lula's cabinet chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, rounded out the defense
by stressing that Brazil's biofuels offered "a solution to the
problems caused by fossil fuels, and at the same time is a tool in the
fight against hunger through the support of family farming."

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