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Oil firm and university partner on first Brazilian biofuels centre

12th July 2012

Petrobras and UFRJ inaugurate Latin America's first centre to provide research on biofuels, biomaterials and bioenergy

The centre will provide research into biomaterials and biofuels

A Brazilian oil firm and state university have joined forces to open Latin America’s first biofuels research facility. Petrobras and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) have inaugurated the Centre for Biofuels, Oil and its Products (NBPD) at the University’s campus in Ilha do Fundão, Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil’s National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) has funded the centre. In conjunction with Petrobras, ANP invested BRL 5.7m (approximately USD 2.8m) in the initiative, which encompasses BRL 60m in UFRJ’s research projects and partners.

UFRJ described the research centre, which will foster coordination between several laboratories, as “the first centre in Latin America to provide ample research on biofuels, biomaterials and energy”. The centre will rely on the concept of biorefinery and use biomass for the production of biofuels.

“The projects currently under development in conjunction with the research centre are already hailing positive results for Petrobras’ industry,” head of technology management for Petrobras' biofuels division João Norberto Noschang Neto told OGT.

“We expect many more to come through in conjunction with UFRJ, and we may rely on the university to test some of our pilot projects,” he added.

Neto also highlighted that the project to produce second generation ethanol from sugarcane bagasse began at UFRJ eight years ago.

"We have progressed a great deal and, in 2015, will produce commercially,” he said, adding that the project will seek to prepare “our company and our nation for the challenges in energy supply and in the increase of renewable sources".

Including 16 laboratories and three pilot plants in an area covering 2,000 sqm, the centre will focus on renewables and fossils in the areas of biochemistry, thermochemistry and oil chemistry.

While endorsement from the oil sector will arguably prove beneficial for UFRJ, Petrobras may stand to gain much from the move in terms of finding more economic fuel solutions. The Brazilian giant announced plans last week to add more sugarcane-based ethanol into its gasoline. The company, which is waiting for government approval before it makes the move, said it aims to halt losses from oil imports forced by refinery shortages amounting to USD 375m.

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