General Electric and Brazilian petrochemical company Petrobras announced sugarcane-based ethanol is now, for the first time, being used in a gas turbine system to produce electricity at the Juiz de Fora Power Plant in Minas Gerais state.
The natural gas plant has a capacity of 87 megawatts and uses two GE LM6000 gas turbines, one whose combustors has been modified to enable the use of both ethanol and natural gas.
GE said there will be five months of demonstration runs to make sure the flexible fuel power plant goes smoothly and to ensure emissions are within the expected limits.
Speaking of Brazilian energy and electricity, ICIS Chemical Business published last week its energy issue and an article by global editor Joseph Chang talked about the US and Brazil aiming to boost production of natural gas and sugarcane, respectively, to meet their energy needs.
The US is likely has around 100 years of natural gas reserves, according to the America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) while UNICA, the Brazilian sugarcane association, projects that Brazil will boost its sugarcane ethanol production from 27.5bn liters in the 2008/09 harvest year to 46.9bn liters by 2015/16.
Another article from senior editor Clay Boswell looked at the renewable energy sector as potential key customer of the chemical industry. Companies such as Danisco and Novozymes supply enzymes and other microorganisms to ethanol producers; biodiesel producers purchase sodium methylate and other process chemicals from firms such as BASF and Evonik.
Hemlock Semiconductor (a subsidiary of Dow Corning), WACKER and many other firms supply polysilicon for the manufacture of photovoltaics for solar power, while countless other specialized materials are also incorporated into PV cells or consumed in their production.
Meanwhile in Europe, the fuel refining industry has to contend with with the implications from continuing rounds of UN Climate Change talks and developments arising from them - chiefly, the threat posed by carbon leakage; while chemical companies also have to get ready for Phase III of the EU Emission Trading System.