Environmental sustainability of biodiesel in Brazil

  • Soybean oil and beef tallow biodiesel production in Brazil, the most representative sources
  • Potential environmental impact
  • Key drivers and barriers for biodiesel environmental sustainability

Biodiesel Production Through the Years

Facts about Biodiesel in the world:

  • Biodiesel was 5% of the world biofuel production in 2000. In 2011, it already represented 20% of the total production
  • The five bigger biodiesel producers were Germany, Brazil, France, Argentina and USA

Biodiesel in Brazil

  • Biodiesel production in Brazil has grown from 736 m3 in 2007 to 2.7M m3 in 2012
  • Total nominal capacity of biodiesel production (6.0 million m3 ). If this capacity is reached it will be sufficient to supply domestic demand

Soybean Oil and Beef Tallow

Soybean Oil

  • A vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of the soybean which can be produced almost all over the Brazilian territory
  • Production increased about 76% since 2001, due to both an increase in exportation and national demand.
  • It is the current main source of biodiesel production in Brazil (77–82% of production)

Beef Tallow

  • Beef tallow is a co-product from the beef meat industry, a low-value co-product
  • Since 2007, beef tallow consumption for biodiesel increased almost six times. In 2010 more than 313,000 t of beef tallow was used to produce biodiesel
  • The main driving forces behind the use of tallow for biodiesel are the low price of raw material and the big cattle herd presence in Brazil
But is biodiesel a good substitute for fossil fuel?

Some concerns

Brazilian Cerrado

  • Represents about 9% of the tropical savannahs worldwide
  • In the last 35 years, more than half of it has been transformed into pasture or crops
  • This change may cause indirect deforestation of the Amazon forest

Producing Biodiesel in a Sustainable Way

  • Agro-ecological zoning, which limits the land for soybean and cattle
  • Use of Genetically modified (GM) crops that are mostly herbicide-resistant or insect resistant and allow production without excessive land-use

The Social Fuel Seal

  • Incentive to industrial producers of biodiesel to purchase feedstock from family farmers
  • They also need to guarantee technical assistance and training to the small farmers
  • The producers obtain tax benefits and credit, besides the seal of Social Fuel


  • Biodiesel can be a good alternative to fossil fuel, but it is essential to produce it in an sustainable way
  • New technologies like GM crops can make biodiesel production more sustainable
  • Developing countries can incentive biodiesel production in order to increase rural jobs and small farmers' incomes

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