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Summit breaks ground at Brazil’s first large-scale corn ethanol plant

Summit Agricultural Group (SAG), a renewable energy, agribusiness development, and production agriculture company, has broken ground on the first large-scale corn ethanol production facility in Brazil.

The $115 million (appr. €101m) plant is an international collaboration between Iowa-based SAG and the Brazilian agribusiness Fiagril.

The production facility is being built in Lucas do Rio Verde in Mato Grosso, a preeminent agricultural state in west central Brazil and the country’s largest producer of corn and soyabeans.

SAG CEO Bruce Rastetter estimated that the plant, which will be the only dedicated corn ethanol plant in Brazil, will be completed in mid-2017.

The facility is expected to be the most modern and efficient ethanol plant in the world, and when fully operational it will employ nearly 90 people and produce 60 million gallons of ethanol annually for domestic markets, SAG says.

Rastetter said the landmark project will bring immediate value to Brazil by helping offset the country’s increasing demand for domestic ethanol, which cannot be met by the existing sugarcane ethanol production, and by introducing to the region valuable high fibre and high protein co-products, which will serve as high-value feed for the Brazilian livestock industry.

SAG’s partner in the corn ethanol project is Fiagril – a diversified company whose operations throughout Mato Grosso and adjoining Brazilian states include biodiesel production, grain trading, crop production inputs, and infrastructure development.

Fiagril’s commitment to sustainable agricultural development in Mato Grosso has served as a model for other regions of Brazil for more than 25 years.

“Mato Grosso has set the standards for Brazilian agriculture and business development for years and thanks to this effort, the region will grow to new heights in the area of renewable fuels,” said Marino Franz, founder of Fiagril.

The SAG/Fiagril production facility will utilise process technologies from Kansas, US-based ICM, which provides engineering, construction, and operational services for more than 100 ethanol plants in North America.

Growing demand for ethanol

Brazil began sugarcane ethanol production in the mid-1970s and today produces 25% of the world’s ethanol.

Bank of America has estimated that annual ethanol sales in Brazil could reach 13.5 billion US gallons in 2022, two-thirds greater than the 8.1 billion gallons estimated in sugarcane ethanol production in 2016.

The Mato Grosso region’s substantial corn production – both proven and potential – make corn-derived ethanol the most viable option to complement existing sugarcane ethanol production and fulfil an annual multi-billion gallon shortfall.

Additionally, the introduction of corn ethanol production to Brazil will generate dividends beyond the fuel pump and highway, according to Justin Kirchhoff, investment development manager for SAG.

“Mato Grosso will also benefit from corn ethanol co-products such as high fibre and high protein feedstocks for the region’s growing beef, pork and poultry industries,” Kirchhoff said.

“That’s why today’s ground breaking at this facility is so important – it will open many new doors for the future of agriculture in Mato Grosso and throughout Brazil.”