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Biofuels’s role in unlocking low-carbon Transportation

In the quest for sustainable development and climate change mitigation, biofuels stand out as a crucial component of the energy transition, particularly in the transportation sector. This article delves into the pivotal role of biofuels, with a focus on Brazil’s leadership in this field, and explores the potential and challenges of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and other advanced biofuel technologies. On May 27, 2024, during the Brazil Climate Summit Europe at the Maison de l’ Amérique Latine in Paris, I moderated a panel with Caio Dafico, Investment and Business Development Director Atvos and Laia Barbarà, Head of Climate Strategy World Economic Forum and decided to leverage it by writing my first essay at LinkedIn. I will love receiving the feedback from my network!

Brazil’s Leadership in Biofuels

A Global Reference in Ethanol and Biodiesel

Brazil is globally recognized for its robust biofuels sector, primarily due to its extensive use of ethanol in the energy matrix. As the second-largest exporter of ethanol and biodiesel, Brazil exemplifies how a country can simultaneously lead in both food production and renewable energy. This dual capability highlights Brazil’s potential to expand biofuel production without compromising its vast forest reserves or food supply.

Sustainable Expansion without Deforestation

One of the key strengths of Brazil’s biofuel strategy lies in its ability to expand production sustainably. With significant underutilized land, Brazil can increase biofuel output without encroaching on forests or competing with food crops. Currently, 66% of Brazil’s land is covered by natural vegetation, which must be preserved in the long term. Agriculture occupies only 9% of the land, but it has the potential to expand over degraded pastures, which constitute 20% of the country’s area. Utilizing degraded pastureland for sugarcane and other crops can improve soil health, enhance carbon capture, and avoid competition with food production.

Scaling Biomass and Biogas

In addition to ethanol and biodiesel, Brazil is exploring other bioenergy avenues, such as biomass and biogas. These resources can scale up to further reduce carbon footprints. Increasing productivity and restoring degraded lands for biomass production can significantly contribute to this effort. Furthermore, future advancements in carbon capturing and storage technologies are expected to drive carbon intensity (CI) scores into negative values, enhancing the sustainability credentials of biofuels.

The Future of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)

Technological Innovations and Challenges

As the transportation sector seeks to decarbonize, SAF emerges as a critical solution for aviation. However, the transition to SAF faces significant financial and regulatory hurdles due to the substantial cost difference between fossil fuels and low-carbon alternatives. Developing and implementing effective policies and incentives is essential to bridge this gap and promote SAF adoption.

Promising Technologies and Regulatory Support

To unlock the full potential of SAF, continuous innovation in production technologies is imperative. Advances in feedstock flexibility, production efficiency, and integration of carbon capture technologies are crucial. Furthermore, regulatory frameworks and financial mechanisms must evolve to support these technologies. Brazil, with its extensive experience in biofuel production, is well-positioned to lead in SAF development. The country can leverage its existing infrastructure and expertise to scale SAF production.

The Role of Book and Claim Systems

A book and claim system could play a vital role in the future of SAF. This approach allows for the decoupling of physical fuel delivery from the environmental attributes of SAF, facilitating broader market participation and ensuring that the environmental benefits of SAF are realized across the supply chain. Brazil’s proactive stance in adopting such practices will be crucial in driving global SAF adoption.

Strategic Allocation and Market Development

Prioritizing Sectors for Biofuel Allocation

Given the current limited supply of biofuels, strategic allocation is essential. Sectors that heavily rely on biofuels for decarbonization, such as aviation and shipping, should be prioritized. This targeted approach ensures that biofuels deliver maximum environmental benefits where they are most needed.

Encouraging Market Leaders and Policy Influences

The First Movers Coalition identifies SAF as the most promising lever for aviation decarbonization, capable of reducing lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% compared to traditional jet fuel. To encourage market leaders to incorporate SAF, robust policies and incentives are necessary. These measures can include tax credits, subsidies, and mandates that drive the adoption of SAF.

Europe’s Position and the Role of Off-takers

Europe has made significant strides in adopting book and claim practices for SAF, supported by proactive industry and policy initiatives. Off-takers and first movers coalitions are instrumental in creating long-term demand for SAF. By committing to purchase SAF, these entities provide the necessary market signals that encourage investment and scale-up in SAF production.

Conclusion

Biofuels, particularly in the context of Brazil’s leadership, offer a viable path to decarbonizing transportation. With strategic expansion, technological innovation, and supportive policies, biofuels can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of light-duty vehicles, heavy-duty trucks, ships, and aircraft. As the world transitions to a low-carbon economy, biofuels will play an indispensable role in achieving sustainable transportation goals.

Antonio Uras
Sócio
ADVISIA OC&C Strategy Consultants 

Formado em Engenharia de Mecânica-Aeronáutica pelo ITA e com MBA pelo INSEAD na França. Faz trabalho voluntário como Presidente da Associação de Ex-Alunos do INSEAD no Brasil e atualmente é sócio da ADVISIA OC&C Strategy Consultants. Possui sólida experiência em gestão, estratégia, marketing e finanças, atuando tanto como executivo quanto como consultor. Experiência desenvolvida em Consultoria de Gestão, Finanças Corporativas e em Investment Banking. Proficiente em Planejamento Estratégico, Redesenho Organizacional, Modelo de Gestão, Turn-around Comercial, Operacional e Financeiro, Transformação Digital, Novas Tecnologias, tais como RPA, Big Data e Advanced Analytics, entre outras, M&A, Gestão de Receita, Pricing, Segmentação e Go To Market.

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