Ethanol Fuel in Brazil - Prices and Effect On Oil Consumption

Prices and Effect On Oil Consumption

Most automobiles in Brazil run either on hydrous alcohol (E100) or on gasohol (E25 blend), as the mixture of 25% anhydrous ethanol with gasoline is mandatory in the entire country. Since 2003, dual-fuel ethanol flex vehicles that run on any proportion of hydrous ethanol and gasoline have been gaining popularity. These have electronic sensors that detect the type of fuel and adjust the engine combustion to match, so users can choose the cheapest available fuel. Sales of flex fuel vehicles reached 9.3 million by December 2009, representing 39 percent of the gasoline-powered fleet. By mid 2010 there were 70 flex models available in the market and production by December 2010 reached more than 12.5 million flex vehicles including more than 500 thousand flex fuel motorcycles.

Due to the lower energy content of ethanol fuel, full flex-fuel vehicles get fewer miles per gallon. Ethanol price has to be between 25-30% cheaper per gallon to reach the break even point. As a rule of thumb, Brazilian consumers are frequently advised by the media to use more alcohol than gasoline in their mix only when ethanol prices are 30% lower or more than gasoline, as ethanol price fluctuates heavily depending on the harvest yields and seasonal fluctuation of sugarcane harvest.

Since 2005, ethanol prices have been very competitive without subsidies, even with gasoline prices kept constant in local currency since mid-2005, at a time when oil was just approaching US$60 a barrel. However, Brazilian gasoline taxes are high, around 54 percent, while ethanol fuel taxes are lower and vary between 12% to 30%, depending of the state. As of October 2008 the average price of E25 gasoline was $4.39 per gallon while the average price for ethanol was USD 2.69 per gallon. This differential in taxation favors ethanol fuel consumption, and by the end of July 2008, when oil prices were close to its latest peak and the Brazilian real exchange rate to the US dollar was close to its most recent minimum, the average gasoline retail price at the pump in Brazil reached USD 6.00 per gallon. The price ratio between gasoline and ethanol fuel has been well above 30 percent during this period for most states, except during low sugar cane supply between harvests and for states located far away from the ethanol production centers. According to Brazilian producers, ethanol can remain competitive if the price of oil does not fall below USD 30 a barrel.

By 2008 consumption of ethanol fuel by the Brazilian fleet of light vehicles, as pure ethanol and in gasohol, is replacing gasoline at the rate of about 27,000 cubic meters per day, and by February 2008 the combined consumption of anhydrous and hydrated ethanol fuel surpassed 50 percent of the fuel that would be needed to run the light vehicle fleet on pure gasoline alone. Monthly consumption of anhydrous ethanol for the mandatory E25 blend, together with hydrous ethanol used by flex vehicles, reached 1.432 billion liters, while pure gasoline consumption was 1.411 billion liters. Despite this volumetric parity, when expressed in terms of energy equivalent (toe), sugarcane ethanol represented 17.6 percent of the country's total energy consumption by the transport sector in 2008, while gasoline represented 23.3 percent and diesel 49.2 percent.

For the first time since 2003 sales of hydrous ethanol fell in 2010, with a decrease of 8.5 percent as compared to 2009. Total consumption of both hydrous and anhydrous ethanol fell by 2.9 percent while gasoline consumption increased by 17.5 percent. Despite the reduction in ethanol consumption, total ethanol sales reached 22.2 billion liters while pure gasoline consumption was 22.7 billion liters, keeping the market share for each fuel close to 50 percent. The decrease in hydrous ethanol consumption was due mainly to high sugar prices in the international markets, which reached a 30 year high in 2010. This peak in sugar prices caused sugarcane processing plants to produce more sugar than ethanol, and as supply contracted, E100 prices increased to the point that several times during 2010 the price of hydrous ethanol was less than 30 percent cheaper than gasoline. Another factor that contributed to this shift was the increase sales of imported gasoline only vehicles that took place during 2010.

State Average
retail price
(R$/liter)
Price spread
E25 - E100
State Average
retail price
(R$/liter)
Price spread
E25 - E100
State Average
retail price
(R$/liter)
Price spread
E25 - E100
E100 E25 (%) E100 E25 (%) E100 E25 (%)
Acre (AC) 2.080 2.943 29.32 Maranhão (MA) 1.709 2.628 34.97 Rio de Janeiro (RJ) 1.676 2.531 33.78
Alagoas (AL) 1.844 2.766 33.33 Mato Grosso (MT) 1.452 2.677 45.76 Rio Grande do Norte (RN) 1.940 2.669 27.31
Amapá (AP) 2.246 2.686 16.38 Mato Grosso do Sul (MS) 1.683 2.676 37.11 Rio Grande do Sul (RS) 1.779 2.574 30.89
Amazonas (AM) 2.773 2.452 27.69 Minas Gerais (MG) 1.610 2.377 32.27 Rondônia (RR) 1.839 2.669 31.10
Bahia (BA) 1.630 2.522 35.37 Pará (PA) 2.120 2.772 23.52 Roraima (RO) 2.154 2.710 20.52
Distrito Federal (DF) 1.884 2.586 27.15 Paraíba (PB) 1.883 2.553 26.24 Santa Catarina (SC) 1.697 2.556 33.61
Ceará (CE) 1.768 2.510 29.56 Paraná (PR) 1.445 2.429 40.51 São Paulo (SP) 1.306 2.398 45.54
Espírito Santo (ES) 1.795 2.662 32.57 Pernambuco (PE) 1.700 2.573 33.93 Sergipe (SE) 1.888 2.518 25.02
Goiás (GO) 1.581 2.565 38.36 Piauí (PI) 1.927 2.655 27.42 Tocantins (TO) 1.708 2.748 37.85
Country average 1.513 2.511 39.75

Read more about this topic:  Ethanol Fuel In Brazil

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