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Petrobras Launches Two Palm Oil Projects; Biodiesel in State of Pará, Renewable Diesel with Galp in Portugal

Brazil’s Petrobras is launching two projects to produce biofuels from palm oil (dendê) in Tomé-Açu (state of Pará): a Petrobras-owned biodiesel plant (the Biodiesel Pará project), and a project to produce renewable diesel in partnership with Portuguese outfit Galp Energia (the Belém project) (earlier post).

The feedstock supply strategy foresees planting oil palm in areas impacted by humans, working in one of the regions affected the most by deforestation in the State of Pará. The projects are intended to contribute to the recovery of these areas, providing protection to the soil, ecological balance and the economic reintegration of these regions where there is sparse productive activity in addition to contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases in the vegetable oil production cycle and in biofuel production.

Seven thousand direct jobs will be created, of which approximately 5,250 in the agricultural sector and 1,750 in the industrial and logistics areas, and 2,250 family farmers will be involved in planting palm.

Biodiesel Pará. The project foresees the deployment of a biodiesel plant in the state of Pará with capacity to produce 120 million liters (31.7 million gallons US) of biodiesel (fatty acid methyl esters) per year to supply Northern Brazil.

With investments estimated at R$330 million (US$184 million), of which R$237 million (US$132 million) in agriculture and R$93 million (US$52 million) in the industrial plant, the project also includes the installation of two industrial palm oil extraction complexes, including crushers and a power cogeneration unit.

For this project, 3,338 families were registered in the municipalities of Igarapé-Miri, Cametá, Mocajuba and Baião, and had their properties georeferenced, an important step in the process of agrarian regularization and to obtain the Rural Environmental Registry (RER). This year, 1.1 million palm seeds will be acquired to start producing seedlings in nurseries. Seedling planting in the production areas is planned for December 2011, and harvest is expected to start as of 2014.

Belém. In late 2007, Galp licensed the UOP/Eni Ecofining catalytic hydroprocessing technology to produce renewable diesel fuel from vegetable oils. The Belém project will produce around 250,000 tons of renewable diesel in Portugal, in partnership with Galp Energia, to supply the Iberian market. The partnership is part of Petrobras’ strategy to enter the European fuel market.

The total estimated investment is R$1,017 million (US$566 million), of which R$554 million (US$309 million) will be invested in Brazil, to produce 300,000 tons of palm oil per year, and R$463 million (US$258 million) in Portugal, to deploy a plant which is expected to go on stream in 2015.

The Belém Project is still in the phase of developing palm seedlings in nursery. Around a million seedlings are currently being grown at Vila Forquilha, in the Tomé-Açu municipality, which are expected to be planted in January 2011. The project includes the installation of four industrial palm oil extraction complexes, including crushers, a power cogeneration unit, and tanking.

With high vegetable oil productivity, palm can be supplied year-round and can be produced by family farms. Furthermore, the production process generates other products, such as organic fertilizers, palm kernel cake, palm kernel oil (extracted from the palm fruit kernel), and power cogeneration from vegetable residues.

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