Since 2015, we have been improving our second-generation ethanol, made from straw and sugarcane bagasse. The product has the same chemical composition as first-generation ethanol, but with an advantage: a carbon footprint that is 35% smaller than with common processing. In addition, reuse increases our productivity by up to 50%—without expanding the planting area (see more here).
Capable of producing both electricity and biofuels, biogas contributes to a cleaner Brazilian energy mix. Our plant, opened in 2020 in Guariba (SP), is a world pioneer in converting filter cake and vinasse into biogas on a commercial scale. First, the filter cake is subjected to anaerobic biodigestion, transforming the biomass in the filter cake into gas, which enters another process—the desulfurization process—and is later burned to finally generate electricity. Vinasse, originating from the distillation of the sugarcane juice, feeds the biodigestion ponds. The bacteria present on the site transform the organic matter into methane-rich gas, which is purified and burned to also generate electricity. The by-product at the end of the process, rich in potassium and nitrogen, returns to nature, fertilizing the field.
The use of industrial by-products—whether filter cake or vinasse—is not new to our industry. But we are intensifying this process with each harvest, transforming these by-products into fertilizers with high value added, so that they can be applied in more areas, with a reduction of up to 30% in the use of mineral fertilizers and gains in productivity of up to 15%. In the next two years, our goal is to nourish 20% of our cultivation area with enriched industrial by-products.
The ReduZa program has been in place since the 2015/2016 harvest to explore all the possibilities of sugarcane. The initiative is based on the use of water from the sugarcane itself, which is evaporated after crushing and condensed for use in the industry on two fronts: reducing water consumption per ton of crushed sugarcane and the use of cold water in boilers by reusing hot water. With this use, we have reduced withdrawal from external sources. Since the program was implemented, there has been a reduction of approximately 22% in surface water withdrawal.
In the industry, we collect, standardize, and contextualize more than 20,000 operational variables in real time. Everything is centralized in a system and monitored through process management screens, in addition to the generation of reports for trend analyses.
We also control digital industrial data through a tool capable of generating interactive visualizations in order to facilitate the interpretation of indicators and centralize information about the operations. The management screens were developed by professionals from our team. In the 2020/2021 harvest, more than 400 users tracked nearly 80 indicators and 1,200 process characteristics.
In 16 bionergy parks, we also implemented advanced control software, which uses artificial intelligence tools to increase industrial efficiency, acting on several input and output variables in the process. The technology also simulates the plant's behavior based on mathematical models, making it possible to predict actions that optimize the operation, considering economic and technical aspects, equipment limitations, safety, and quality. This system has the potential to be replicated in the other units as of the next harvest.