Angola Moves toward Biofuels Production

3 April 2009

An Angolan-Brazilian consortium says it is moving ahead with plans to establish a major biofuels production facility in the Angolan province of Malanje. The US$258 million project - scheduled for completion by 2012 - will include a 30 thousand hectare area for sugarcane cultivation and a plant for processing the crop into sugar and ethanol. The facility will also generate bioenergy.

The sub-Saharan African country has been mulling over its capacity to produce biofuels for some time and is considering a policy proposal specifically aimed at nurturing the industry through funding incentives and investments in infrastructure. The project brings together Angola's state oil company Sonangol and Damer with Brazilian construction behemoth Odebrecht in a joint venture dubbed the Bioenergy Company of Angola (BIOCOM).

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has long been a champion of biofuels as a tool for development in land rich but cash poor countries, particularly in Africa (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 28 November 2008, http://www.ictsd.org/bridges-news/biores/news/biofuels-conference-looks-toward-global-market-development). And the linguistic and cultural ties that the two former Portuguese colonies continue to share make Angola an ideal country to collaborate with the South American biofuels giant. In addition to participating in the implementation and management of the project, Brazil will provide technology transfer, as the country has decades of experience in the production of biofuels.

Eduardo Leão de Sousa, Executive Director of the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), says Angola's favourable climatic and agricultural conditions make the country provide the country with promising potential for biofuels production. Moreover, the geographical location and the trade preferences the former colony shares with Portugal makes Angola ideally suited for export to the EU. Leão de Sousa also noted that the Brazilian cooperation in terms of technology transfer should not be strictly limited to the agricultural sector, but should also extend to the automobile, as in the development of flex-fuel engines.

BIOCOM says the facility will annually generate 30 million litres of ethanol, 250 tons of sugar as well as 160 thousand megawatts per hour. Initially, production will be directed to supply the domestic market with the possibility of exporting surpluses over the medium term. The consortium also hopes to install more facilities in the country.

The project is part of the efforts of the Angolan government to reduce dependence on imported sugar and consumption of fossil fuels in the country. Because ethanol has not yet been officially adopted as a fuel by the Angolan government, the activity of the plant will initially be aimed at sugar manufacturing. However, the opportunities generated by the possible inclusion of ethanol in the energy matrix have aroused much interest both in government and the private sector.

In addition to the government proposal to approve ethanol as an automotive fuel, the Angolan government is preparing a legislation package that would regulate biofuels production.
This article is primarily based on a translation from ICTSD's Portuguese biweekly periodical Pontes Quinzenal.

"Biocombustíveis esperam legislação," GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF ANGOLA - MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, 23 March, 2009; "Angola prepara-se para produzir biocombustíveis," GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF ANGOLA, 23 March 2009; "Bioenergia em Angola começa a funcionar em 2012," GOVERNMENT OF ANGOLA - PORTAL ENTERPRISE, 17 March 2009; "Produção de cana-de-açúcar abre espaço para energias renováveis em Angola," BRAZILIAN SUGARCANE INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION (UNICA), 16 March 2009.

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