Today, the main energy sources in Brazil are generated by hydropower, oil, mineral coal and biofuels. Some others sources are used on a smaller scale, such as natural gas and nuclear power. In this article you are going to learn more about the different energy sources in Brazil.
Energy sources are indispensable for a country’s development. Usually, countries with higher incomes hold greater capacity of energy consumption. In Brazil, as the country expands so does the national energy sector.
Non-renewable energy are those which may run out of sources in the future. Oil, for example, has estimated depletion in a few decades. Although many cars in Brazil use ethanol, many vehicles still use fossil fuels. Natural gas is also widely used in Brazil, mainly in homes and industries.
Oil Energy in Brazil
Oil is the main source of Brazilian energy, responsible for 39.3% of energy in the country. Oil is used as an energy source for motor vehicles through the production of gasoline, diesel oil or kerosene, transportation is responsible for 33% of energy use in Brazil. Oil is also responsible for supplying thermoelectric plants.
A few years ago, Brazil used to import around 60% of its oil. Nowadays, Brazil has discovered oil reserves in the Pré-sal layer at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, located on the Brazilian coast. In the first bimester of 2015, the export of oil was higher than the import rate.
The main petroliferous basins are: Bacia de Campos, the largest in Brazil, Bacia de Santos, Bacia do Espírito Santo and Bacia do Recôncavo Baiano.
Mineral Coal Energy
Coal production is used for the generation of thermal energy and it is also used as a primary material for steel industries. The industry sector is responsible for 33.9% of energy use in Brazil. The production of coal in Brazil is concentrated in the states of Santa Catarina, at Vale do Tubarão and Rio Grande do Sul, at Vale do Rio Jacuí.
Despite the existence of places where the production of coal is more intense, Brazilian mineral coal is not good quality. The steel and hydropower industries require high quality mineral coal to produce the lowest amount of pollution as possible. Because of this, Brazil imports about 60% of its coal consumption.
Nuclear energy has been implemented in Brazil with the creation of the Brazilian Nuclear Program, reasoning that hydropower itself would not be powerful enough to drive the energy grid of Brazil. This argument proved to be invalid, since Brazil has the third largest hydraulic capacity in the world, it just doesn’t produce to its full capacity.
In 1981, the first nuclear power plant in Brazil was installed in Angra dos Reis, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, therefore called Angra I. Due to technical problems, the plant has been disabled and it is no longer in operation.
Later, Angra II and III projects started. The Angra II plant began operating in 2000 and the Angra III is supposed to be completed by 2018 at the cost of BRL 14.9 billion. Until now, nuclear power represents only 2.4% of the national production of electricity.
In addition to the high costs and low production levels, nuclear power plants are heavily criticized by environmental activists for bringing high risks in case of accidents or leaks and by not establishing a fixed location for the disposal of radioactive waste generated by the plant.
A large part of the electricity generated in Brazil come from renewable sources. Hydropower is a significant source of energy in the country due to Brazilian rivers that have high energy potential.
Hydropower in Brazil
Hydropower is the main source of electricity in Brazil. A report from the National Energy Balance estimates that around 70% of electricity consumed in Brazil comes from hydropower plants. Still, Brazil only uses 25% of its hydropower capability and also exports part of the energy that is generated. The main buyers are Paraguay and Argentina by the binational hydropower plant of Itaipú and the hydropower plants of Garabi and Yaciretá respectively.
The main hydropower plants in Brazil are:
1. Usina Hidrelétrica de Itaipu, at Rio Paraná - with capacity of 14.000 MW
2. Usina Hidrelétrica de Tucuruí at Rio Tocantins - with capacity of 8.370 MW
3. Usina Hidrelétrica de Ilha Solteira at Rio Paraná - with capacity of 3.444 MW
4. Usina Hidrelétrica de Xingó at Rio São Francisco - with capacity of 3.162 MW
5. Usina Hidrelétrica de Foz Do Areia at Rio Iguaçu - with capacity of 2.511 MW
6. Usina Hidrelétrica de Paulo Afonso at Rio São Francisco - with capacity of 2.462 MW
7. Usina Hidrelétrica de Itumbiara at Rio Paranaíba with capacity of 2.082 MW
8. Usina Hidrelétrica de Teles Pires at Rio Teles Pires - with capacity of 1.820 MW
9. Usina Hidrelétrica de São Simão at Rio Paranaíba - with capacity of 1.710 MW
10. Usina Hidrelétrica de Jupiá at Rio Paraná - with capacity of 1.551 MW
Natural gas is usually produced together with oil and accounts for 11.3% of the energy consumption in Brazil. It is used for domestic gas production, industries and thermoelectric plants supply and in the production of motor fuels.
Wind power represents only 1.1% of the Brazilian production of energy. This source of energy is very expensive to be installed but provides renewable and inexhaustible energy.
In the year 2000, Brazil started to face a very dry period lowering the river levels and therefore the energy production from hydroelectrics. The first Brazilian wind energy turbine was installed in Fernando de Noronha in 1992. Ten years later, the government created the Incentive Program for Alternative Sources of Electric Energy, known as Proinfa. Which encouraged the use of renewable sources such as wind and biomass.
Since the creation of Proinfa, wind energy production in Brazil has increased from 22 MW in 2003 to 2 207 MW in 2013, enough to supply a city with 400 000 homes. According to the research center of electric power, Eletrobrás, Brazil has the capacity to generate up to 140 GW with wind.
The use of biomass consists in burning organic substances and materials for energy production. Wood, sugarcane, agricultural residues and animal excrements are a few examples of materials that can be burned for energy.
In Brazil, Biomass is now responsible for 7.6% of energy resources. Brazil has natural and geographical conditions favorable to the production of biomass. Due to its geographical location, Brazil receives intense solar radiation throughout the year, fundamental for the production of either food or agro-industrial purposes. Brazil also have a lot of agricultural land available and favorable climatic conditions.
Biofuels are energy sources from natural products, such as sugarcane and castor beans. Most Biofuels used in Brazil are Ethanol, Biogas and Biodiesel. Its use is supported for being considered a cleaner energy, causing less damage to the environment. On the other hand, many fields are cleared out for the cultivation of these raw materials.
According to the Brazilian Institute of Geographical Statistics, known as IBGE, in 2013, the Brazilian energy supply reached 296.2 Mtoe, registering a growth rate of 4.5% compared to the evolution of the Brazilian GDP, of 2.3%. Natural gas, oil and oil products accounted for 80% of this increase.
Another aspect refers to the consumption of energy by the transport sector, which for the second consecutive year grew significantly. In 2013 this increase was supplied largely by ethanol, unlike in 2012 when it was gasoline.