Ethanol generators being shipped to the “frozen continent”
Generators that run on ethanol, like the ones that began operating on January 10th at Brazil’s Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station (EACF), are a sustainable alternative for countries that need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and consume less fossil fuels. According to the emissions and technology consultant at Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), Alfred Szwarc, use of the equipment developed by Vale Solutions in Energy (VSE), a subsidiary of giant mining concern Vale, is a significant business opportunity for Brazil.
"The pioneer use of this equipment in an environmentally strategic region broadens perspectives for the Brazilian biofuel internationally. Because of its very low freezing point, ethanol is more appropriate than gasoline or diesel to operate at the extreme temperatures observed in Antarctica," says Szwarc.
|Compared to conventional turbines powered by fossil fuels, the ethanol-driven generator provides a 68% reduction in GHG emissions and releases fewer particles and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. Brazil is a leader in the use of ethanol in combustion engines, such as flex-fuel vehicles and power generators like VSE’s. Ethanol generators were a major attraction at an exhibit focused on ethanol at the São Paulo International Auto Show in 2010.
Brazilian research station in the Antactic equipped with first
ethanol-powered generator in operation on the icy continent
(Credit: Agência Brasil)
At the time, two 400 kilowatt (KW) generators and a specially built 3,000 liter tank to hold the ethanol, were installed outside the exhibit to supply electricity to the AGORA Project booth.
Commercial viability of ethanol generators could gain support in 2012, a year which the United Nations (UN) has defined as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. The goal is to create awareness about the sustainable use of natural resources, an effort that will culminate with the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, better known as Rio +20, to be held next June in Rio de Janeiro.
The launch of the ethanol generator in Antarctica in January was attended by the Brazilian Minister of Defence, Celso Amorim, who turned on the device during the ceremony. In addition to conventional diesel generators already in use at the station, the new arrival will contribute to supply all the electricity needed to operate the center for scientific research in Antarctica, established by the Brazilian government in 1984.
The generator will produce 250 (KW) daily for consumption at the station, which will require, per year, 350,000 liters of hydrous ethanol, the same fuel used in flex-fuel vehicles in Brazil. Oil giant Petrobras, also a fuel supplier, will closely monitor the performance of ethanol at low temperatures.
Altogether, the project, which also has logistical support of the Brazilian Navy, will cost R$2.5 million. The resources will be provided by the Financier of Studies and Projects (FINEP) within the scope of Brazil’s federal Law of Innovation.