First Corn-to-Ethanol Plant Opens in Brazil

By Jerry Perkins, editor, BioFuels Journal

The first large-scale, corn-to-ethanol plant in Brazil is up and running in Lucas do Rio Verde in the state of Mato Grosso.

The $115-million facility is currently ramping up production to run at a rate of 63 million gallons of ethanol a year, said Bruce Rastetter, founder and CEO of Summit Agricultural Group, the Alden-IA based agribusiness that is a partner in the project, called FS Bioenergia, with the Brazilian agribusiness giant, Fiagril.

Rastetter spoke by phone to BioFuels Journal on Aug. 14, just one day after returning from the ethanol plant?s grand opening ceremony in Mato Grosso, which was attended by the president of Brazil, the country?s agriculture secretary, eight governors from different Brazilian states, and several elected state officials.

?They understand the economic development aspect of corn ethanol and they want to celebrate it,? Rastetter said of the high-powered turnout for the grand opening.

Rastetter said the plant is producing at rate of 55 MMGY currently and will be running at its capacity of 63 MMGY within a week.

The plant utilizes process technologies from ICM, Inc. of Colwich, KS, which also has provided construc¬tion oversight in Brazil.

In its first operational phase, FS Bioenergia annually will process 22 million bushels of corn to produce 63 million gallons of corn ethanol, 6,200 tons of corn oil, and 170,000 tons of dried distillers grains (DDGs).

In 2018, FS Bioenergia?s second phase of operations will double its corn processing and ethanol production.

?FS Bioenergia is the most modern and efficient ethanol production operation in the world and will revolutionize the biofuels landscape in Brazil,? Rastetter said in a statement announcing the commencement of production at FS Bioenergia.

?Summit Ag Group and Fiagril are proud to have delivered this historic project to Mato Grosso, and we look forward to the development of the region as a leader in ethanol, corn, and livestock production.?

FS Bioenergia?s corn ethanol operation is considered a landmark project in Brazil that will deliver immediate value to the country, the statement said.

First, the plant will offset Brazil?s increasing demand for domestic ethanol, which can?t be met by Brazil?s existing sugarcane ethanol production. And, second, the plant will introduce DDGs to Mato Grosso?s livestock industry.

Brazilian Corn Crop

Rastetter said that Brazil?s farmers are just completing the 2017 corn harvest.

The 2017 Brazilian corn crop is expected to reach a record 100 million metric tons (3.9 billion bushels).

Farmers in the state of Mato Grosso will produce just a little more than one billion bushels of corn, Rastetter said.

Corn for processing at FS Bioenergia will come from a 40-to-60-mile radius of the plant, he said, with a majority of the corn being bought from farmers and the balance from corn merchants.

Corn ethanol in Brazil can be produced at a significantly lower cost than sugar cane ethanol, Rastetter said, because of the relatively cheaper price of corn.

Economics in Brazil currently favor the conversion of sugar cane to ethanol, he said.

The majority of the ethanol produced by FS Bioenergia will be sold in the north of Brazil in the Amazon basin region, Rastetter stated.

The ethanol plant also will produce approximately 14 megawatts of electricity, with half used to power the plant and the remaining half sent to the local grid.

The power will come from burning eucalyptus wood chips to produce steam, according to Rastetter.

ICM?s Fiber Separation Technology? (FST?) also has been installed at the plant.

Half of the dried DDGs will be produced as a low-fiber, 45% protein feed ingredient for poultry and swine.

Because of its high protein, it will be priced in comparison to soybean meal instead of corn, Rastetter said, which means it will earn a higher price.

The remaining DDGs will be marketed as a 15% protein and high fiber feed for ruminant animals.

The joint venture with Fiagril intends to grow into a multi-plant company, Rastetter said, but no plans have been made on the number of plants.