Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ethanol for fuel

Bio-ethanol has been in the news lately and has acquired politicial overtones. Does it make sense for Guyana? It would certainly seem to given the urgent need to diversify the sugar industry here in view of increasingly tough competition in selling sugar internationally and the importance of the industry to the country both economically and socially.

Without making changes to existing car engines about 10% ethanol could be added to gasolene. This would reduce the gasolene import requirement. It would also reduce Guyana's carbon emissions since ethanol is replaceable from natural sources and not a fossil fuel. Higher percentages of ethanol require some slight modification to existing vehicles.

Using some rough figures Guyana uses about 50,000 hectares of land for growing sugar cane and produces around 300,000 (metric) tonnes of sugar.

Using figures from Brazil if one tenth this land were used to produce sugar cane for ethanol production then it could yield about 30 million litres of ethanol. I am told we import around 120 million litres of gasolene. This much ethanol would be sufficient to replace 10% of gasolene used as a fuel in all cars and still leave a large quantity for export.

A look at the cost benefits of using ethanol as a fuel proved a bit difficult as I could not find current data and prices have changed so much recently but it looks favourable and sugar prices are likely to fall while gasolene prices may go up further.

Judging from recent press reports it would seem that one or more investors may be coming in to set up new canefields specifically for ethanol production and export. I see no reason not to move rapidly to 10% ethanol in all gasolene as a first step.

Links
Statistics on sugar to 2001
Wikipedia on ethanol for fuel

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