Biofuels in South America - Statistics & Facts

Liquid biofuels, namely ethanol and biodiesel, have been used for decades in road transportation as a way to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, control fuel prices, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike its fossil counterparts, biofuels are produced from a variety of crops, and their combustion emissions are at least partially offset by the absorption of CO₂ from the feedstock crop during its lifetime. There is a general consensus that the use of liquid biofuels will play an important role in decarbonizing road transportation in the coming decade. In this context, South America – home to two of the leading biofuel-producing countries worldwide and a growing fuel demand – is to remain a key market.

Ethanol fuel has been around for years

In 2020, Brazil was the second-largest biofuel producer in the world, ranking only behind the U.S. The South American country’s history with ethanol fuel – which accounts for over 80 percent of the national biofuel output – is no recent trend. Since 1976, a blend of ethanol fuel in commercialized gasoline is mandatory, with the minimum blend rate standing at 27 percent as of 2022. In addition, pure ethanol is also sold as vehicle fuel in Brazilian petrol stations, frequently a cheaper alternative against spikes in gasoline prices. In fact, more than eight out of ten new light vehicles registered in the country are flexible fuel, with an engine that can run on any ratio of ethanol and gasoline.

A similar, yet more recent development is also seen in Argentina, the second-biggest producer in the region. The mandated blend of ethanol fuel in gasoline sold in the country was first enforced in 2010. Since then, the Argentine ethanol fuel output has increased nearly nine-fold, surpassing one billion liters per year. In contrast, Colombia’s annual production has oscillated throughout the past decade, with blend mandates adjusted accordingly in order to supply the internal demand.

Highlights of the biodiesel market

In regard to biodiesel, Brazil and Colombia display a similar mandated blend rate in commercialized diesel fuel, while Argentina recently lowered their blend to five percent. Market prices are set by the national government in the two Spanish-speaking countries, whereas sales of biodiesel in Brazil are carried out through bi-monthly auctions. In terms of market, Argentina once again distinguishes itself within the trio. Biodiesel output in the country was historically boosted with a focus on the foreign market, with biodiesel exports accounting for more than 70 percent of Argentine production in 2021. Meanwhile, in Brazil and Colombia, biodiesel production mainly supplies the domestic market.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 36 most important statistics relating to "Biofuels in South America".

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