Crude oil prices nearing US$120 a barrel are speeding up the plans of Japanese conglomerate Mitsui for alternate fuels.

In partnership with state-owned oil company Petrobras, Mitsui is to become minor partner (limited to 30%) in three new ethanol distilleries in mid-west states (Goiás and Mato Grosso).

The project foresees participation in 20 enterprises, each valued around $200m, including agricultural work.

All ethanol produced is to be exported to Japan. In 2012 volume will reach 4bn litres yearly to meet the Japanese government decision to gradually add ethanol to gasoline at a 3% blend.

Here in Brazil, the consumption of anhydrous ethanol (for blending with gasoline at 25%) added to the hydrous kind (for those who fill their FFVs with ethanol) has surpassed gasoline alone. This has not happened since the 1980s at the peak of the world-first programme begun in 1975 to develop production of ethanol here.

Fernando Calmon