Chem companies invest in Brazilian biomass

Biomass is in the air as both Dow Chemical and specialty chemical company Rhodia announced today their investments in this energy feedstock.

Dow is building a biomass co-generation plant at its Aratu manufacturing complex in Brazil, which will use eucalyptus wood biomass to produce steam for the site’s chlor-alkali and chlorohydrin production processes.

Chlor-alkali processing (the production of chlorine and caustic soda), by the way, is a large consumer of steam and electricity so this move could potentially lower Dow’s operating costs if the biomass feedstock is not that expensive as well as minimize volatility of their electricity costs. Steam and electricity typically account for 50-55% of total chlor-alkali production cost, according to industry analysts.

Dow expects the co-generation plant to reduce the site’s carbon dioxide emissions by 180,000 tonnes/year and conserve 200,000 cubic meter/day of natural gas. Dow will also receive carbon credits for the project. The Aratu site currently receives all of its electricity from hydropower.

The co-generation plant is expected to be completed in December 12, and Energias Renovaveis do Brasil (ERB) will invest, install and operate the plant.

Rhodia’s business unit Rhodia Energy Services, meanwhile, signed a deal with Brazilian private company Paraiso for its first bagasse-based biomass project also focusing on producing electricity. Rhodia will upgrade and operate a cogeneration unit in Paraiso’s sugar and ethanol facility in Brotas city using the sugarcane bagasse.

The cogeneration unit that will produce 70 megawatts of electricity mostly be sold to the local grid as well as supply the site with electricity and steam. Paraiso will supply the bagasse and other sugarcane solid waste to Rhodia on an exclusive basis.

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