Maps will likely be available by the end of May and are divided into three overall categories: urban wastes, rural wastes, and the sugar and alcohol industry

A team from the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI), led by Professor Suani Coelho (Project 27), will launch, on May 30, an unprecedented set of interactive maps of the potential for biomass production in the State of São Paulo. The launch will take place during RCGI’s participation in the 27th edition of the European Biomass Conference & Exhibition (EUBCE), in Lisbon, Portugal, during a side event by the RCGI financed by the Research Foundation for the State of São Paulo (FAPESP), with the support of the Brazilian Association of Biogas and Biomethane (ABIOGAS).

“We are in the final preparation phase, because there are quite a number of maps: one for each type of waste. They were divided into three overall categories: urban waste (solids or liquids); rural waste (subdivided into such groups as cattle, swine and poultry farming); and the sugar and alcohol industry,” added Professor Coelho.

According to her, by the end of this month, the maps will be available on the sites of the RCGI and the GBio, the latter being a group of studies that she coordinates at the Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE/USP). “The databases that we used are from the IBGE and studies performed by several Ministries. The results are listed by municipalities,” she explained.

The Professor and her team had already developed an Atlas of Bioenergy in Brazil (2009-2012). “It wasn’t interactive, it was printed, but at that time, we saw that there was a huge interest in the subject and in the methodology, replicated by numerous other Brazilian States the released their own maps, later.”

Potential – The Professor, who has worked with biogas and Biomethane for decades, reiterates that both the State of São Paulo and of Brazil have enormous potential for producing these energy sources, but little incentive for taking up the activity. Her team recently estimated that the potential for Biomethane production in São Paulo accounts for 46% of the demand in the State for natural gas.

According to the Brazilian Biogas Association (ABIOGÁS), Brazil’s production potential in 2018 was 84.6 billion Nm³ (normal cubic meter), with the largest part belonging to the sugar-energy industry (41.4 billion Nm³).

“For over 30 years we have talked about biogas and Biomethane, but always at a very slow pace, because little interest is shown on the part of the various governmental levels, hardly any incentive is given, and there was never much investment in technology. São Paulo has immense potential in the sugar-alcohol sector, but that particular industry does not want to run a lot of risks. Now, however, it seems like there is a more promising regulatory environment,” Ms. Coelho believes.

She explains that the extinct Department of Energy and Mining of the State of São Paulo (recently substituted by the Department of Infrastructure and the Environment), and the State regulatory agency, ARSESP, had been specifically discussing the percentages of Biomethane that should be injected into the State natural gas pipeline network. “It was a very small percentage, something like 0.5% to 1% of the total injected natural gas, which is way too little, compared to our Biomethane production potential. But at least it was being discussed.”

Perspectives – She says that three projects are already being implemented for producing biogas/Biomethane from sugarcane waste. “One of them involves GasBrasiliano, a concessionaire that distributes piped gas in the northeastern section of the State, and Usina Cocal, in the middle of the State. The company will build a distribution network that will take Biomethane from Usina Cocal, in the city of Narandiba, to the city of Presidente Prudente, where the consumers of this gas are located.”

According to Ms. Coelho, in order for it to be an attractive business to produce Biomethane to be injected in the pipeline network, it is necessary to have prices that make it worthwhile. “Cegás, in the State of Ceará, pays a higher price per m³ of Biomethane than for a m³ of conventional fossil gas, because Biomethane has the unmistakable advantage of sustainability, and that comes at price.”