• Kyodo

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Mitsui & Co. and Brazilian group Cosan S/A Industria e Comercio are teaming up to produce an alternative fuel for cars.

The sugarcane alcohol will be refined in Sao Paulo for possible use in Japan, the Brazilian company said Wednesday.

Mitsui is shipping $1.5 million in equipment to assemble a pilot plant in Piracicaba, in the state of Sao Paulo, adjacent to Cosan’s Costa Pinto mill.

The Cosan group, one of the world’s largest sugar and sugarcane alcohol producers, operates 10 sugarcane fuel mills in Brazil.

The pilot project’s initial output is estimated at 2,000 liters a month. The volume is expected to rise sharply after Japan approves the blending of alcohol with gasoline as automobile fuel.

Mitsui plans to import 500 million liters of the alcohol in the second half of 2003.

Coimex Trading Co., the Brazilian group involved in shipping the alcohol to Japan, estimates demand of 5 billion liters until 2007, the Brazilian business daily Valor said.

Experts say no modification is necessary for a regular gasoline-powered engine to use gasoline blended with 10 percent to 15 percent alcohol.

All gasoline sold in Brazil is blended with up to 25 percent alcohol. Brazilian experts say the Japanese government may initially authorize a 5 percent blend.

One ton of sugarcane, a clean, renewable source of energy, produces energy equivalent to 1.2 barrels of petroleum.

Brazil’s experience in using sugarcane alcohol to fuel automobiles began in the 1970s, when the country launched the National Alcohol Program to counterbalance the effects of a global oil crisis.

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