Sunday, June 10, 2012

PDVSA tries something mildly intelligent

Much as I love to take the piss out of PDVSA, they've got an interesting biofuels experiment I thought worth mentioning. 

Venezuela was of course in favor of biofuels before it was against them, to coin a phrase. But truth be told, the yelling and screaming from Havana and Caracas during the biofuels heyday five years ago was evidenced to be hot air by the fact that both Cuba and Venezuela continued to develop sugar cane ethanol. Most of this came from them having their knickers in a twist about Bush and Lula signing biofuels cooperation deals (again, highlighting my relatively dim view of the food-vs.-fuels debate.)

Sorry. Back to not taking the piss out of PDVSA. 

Brazil is able to extract more energy from sugar cane ethanol than U.S. corn ethanol in large part because it burns the leftover roughage known as cane bagasse and uses that heat to generate electricity. Corn ethanol producers use left-over corn solids to feed cattle, which is less generally less productive because it never made much sense to feed so much corn to cows. 

PDVSA's ethanol program is now trying find something new to do with cane bagasse -- compost it into fertilizer. 

Yes, I admit this is a stellar moment of my inner environment geekiness, but I genuinely think composting is cool and would save the world billions of dollars if done correctly. 

As the company said in a press release

With the aim of reusing the byproducts of sugar cane milling, PDVSA subsidiary PDVSA Agricola plans to generate 500 tonnes of fertilizer per day that will be used for the cultivation of sugar and other crops. 

PDVSA Agricola is currently carrying out basic and conceptual engineering for the area that will process the compost.

Given how difficult it's been for Venezuela to build and maintain power plants, turning this stuff back into dirt seems like a better way to do something productive with cane bagasse. If developed, it would help to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers that are copiously applied thanks to absurd subsidies applied to everything under the sun (especially things related to fossil fuels). 

I genuinely like the idea. I genuinely hope PDVSA actually does it. 

There, I said something nice about somebody. 

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