Baseload, Bioenergy

Tapping Brazilian “Bagasse” for Electricity Production

French company Albioma (née Sechilienne-Sidec) wants to invest 400 million euros (about US $528 million) over the next decade to tap into the confluence of two established and emerging sectors in Brazil: converting sug- arcane waste into electricity.

“Bagasse,” the crushed cane stalks left over after sugar has been extracted, has an energy content of about 450 kWh/metric ton, which is similar to wood and about half that of coal, but it’s sparingly used as an energy source; only about 10 percent of the 500 million metric tons of bagasse produced globally gets converted into energy, notes Reuters. One metric ton of sugar cane yields about 300 kg of bagasse, and Brazil produces 560 million metric tons of sugar cane annually. Brazil could as much as double its biomass electricity generation, to 10-15 percent of its overall energy mix, by better leveraging its bagasse resources.

Several Brazilian firms already are tapping into the promise of bagasse to produce power. Raizen has 13 thermoelectric power plants and total installed capacity of 934 MW in 24 mills, with potential annual electricity of 1.8 million MWh. Others working with bagasse in Brazil include ETH Bioenergia and several domestic arms of French sugar companies.

Enter Albioma, which processes 2 million metric tons/year of bagasse and touted 567 MW of installed capacity in 2012 (and 573.4 GWh power generation as of March 2013) for its “thermic biomass.” The firm has been using bagasse in overseas French territories from Mauritius and Guadalupe, including investing hundreds of millions of euros in a bagasse project in Martinique, and is now negotiating with sugar mills in Brazil to buy out their plants, Reuters says. Long-term contacts with farmers, sugar mills, and the state grid take time to negotiate, but financing is “readily available” from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), according to Albioma CEO Jacques Petry, quoted by Reuters.  

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Lead image: Sugarcane bagasse via Shutterstock