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March 16, 2012

Brazilian Mill Can Utilize Sugarcane or corn to Produce Ethanol

In an effort to spread out their fixed costs over a longer period of time, a sugar/ethanol mill in Brazil is now capable of producing ethanol from sugarcane as well as from corn. Corn will not replace sugarcane, but will be used to continue running the mill during the intra-harvest period when it is normally shut down.

The mill is located in Campos de Julio in western Mato Grosso. The mill operates using sugarcane during the harvest season, which normally runs from April through October. When the harvest ends in October, the mill would normally not operate for five months until the sugarcane harvest resumes in April. That is where corn comes into the picture. Corn can be used to keep the mill operating for four additional months (the mill is normally shut down for one month for annual maintenance), thus spreading out its operational costs over a longer period of time.

Some of the equipment used in producing ethanol from sugarcane can also be used for making ethanol from corn, but an investment of R$ 20 million was needed for new equipment and adaptions to successfully utilize corn. Once in full operation, the mill will be capable of utilizing 300 tons of corn per day.

Corn producers in Mato Grosso are glad to see an alternative for utilizing the expanding corn crop. Currently, Mato Grosso has the cheapest corn in Brazil due to the high cost of transporting the grain to exporters or livestock producers in southern Brazil.

The plant operator estimates that it costs R$ 1.23 per liter to make ethanol from corn and R$ 1.10 per liter if sugarcane is utilized. In addition to corn, the mill is set up to use sorghum as well.