*By Wilson Lucena
The debates surrounding the energy transition, currently seen as an undeniable global necessity, have generated great visibility for the sugar-energy sector. This is because biofuels play a central role in this scenario, since their efficiency has been proven in significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
Data from the Brazilian Sugarcane and Bioenergy Industry Association (Única) indicates that the use of ethanol, for example, has prevented the emission of 630 million CO2 since 2003, when flex-fuel technology was launched. In addition, sugarcane ethanol, combined with Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), can net reduce CO2 emissions, further contributing to global decarbonization.
To quote an internal figure, at BP Bunge Bioenergia, with the ethanol and bioenergy produced in just one of our harvests, we were able to contribute to avoiding the emission of 1.7 million tons of gases harmful to the environment, the equivalent of removing one million vehicles from traffic.
This panorama of opportunities – and responsibility in the face of such an important issue for the whole world – means that we need to step up our efforts to develop the activities of this very strategic sector, which starts with a homework lesson for each of the players involved, in order to seek improvements that will enable more and more gains in terms of efficiency, productivity and competitiveness.
At BP Bunge, this has been a central issue since the company was founded three years ago, so much so that operational excellence is one of the 12 priority themes that make up the 2030 Commitments agenda, a strategic map that makes tangible the company’s journey towards an evolution towards increasingly sustainable levels in all aspects.
Talking specifically about our industrial operation, we have had an important competitive advantage since the beginning of the business: we have the youngest industrial park in the segment in the country. Most of the plants that make up the company’s industrial park have been in operation for between 10 and 15 years, well below the market average of around 25 years, which makes our units more up-to-date from a technological point of view.
In addition to this positive condition, our investments in the first harvest, aimed at increasing the industrial reliability of our 11 agro-industrial plants, amounted to more than BRL 180 million, maintenance plan covering predictive, preventive and corrective actions for the plants’ equipment, with special attention to the off-season, when around 68,000 activities were carried out. This type of investment, in my opinion, is extremely strategic, since it increases reliability and efficiency during the harvest, avoiding unscheduled interruptions in production, and also generates more safety, reducing the exposure of employees to any type of risk –a factor that is of vital importance to our company.
It is also worth mentioning that we are committed to projects aimed at implementing Industry 4.0 processes, artificial intelligence and data analytics as tools for improving performance and achieving operational excellence. We have, for example, an automation management system from which we currently have installed around 1,300 online sensors aimed at maintaining critical points in the operation – another 2,700 will be installed by 2023, totaling 4,000 sensors that provide us with important information, such as possible equipment failures, for example. At our Frutal unit, we have already seen a 10% gain in electricity generation using this technology, which also works at the Tropical and Itumbiara plants. Plans call for this system to be implemented in all the plants by 2025.
Another point I consider important when we talk about the pursuit of operational excellence is not to overlook the lessons that any problems or bottlenecks encountered along the way can bring to improving operations. In our case, we do this through a continuous improvement program – Transforma – which aims to optimize operational performance by identifying, mediating and eliminating problems. Created from an Integrated Management System (IMS), which standardizes operational processes and guidelines in all our units, the program has already led to solutions that have represented financial returns of around BRL 134 million for the company.
The examples of initiatives that materialize this journey towards structuring to serve the market well in the challenging scenario of the energy transition are numerous and involve different aspects, with an obvious emphasis on technological advances. But it is a fact that, even with all the improvements that can still be implemented – and much is being done in this direction, the sugar-energy sector is already capable of immediately meeting society’s demands for the construction of a low-carbon economy, reducing harmful emissions into the environment through technologies that are already a reality, worked within a highly structured, regulated, popularized sector worldwide and proven to be efficient.
*Wilson Lucena, Industrial Director of BP Bunge Bioenergia