Sugarcane ethanol and beef cattle integration in Brazil
New models for renewable energy production are needed to simultaneously decrease greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, use land more efficiently and replace large amounts of fossil fuel. Ethanol production and livestock feed integration as practiced in the United States (USA) is one model for ethanol production combined with animal feed production. Brazil, the second largest ethanol and beef cattle producer in the world, can adapt the USA model of corn ethanol and cattle integration considering its local characteristics. This paper evaluates the techno-economic and environmental feasibility of sugarcane ethanol and cattle integration, thereby avoiding pasture displacement into forests or other sensitive lands. Cattle can be fattened in feedlots using some sugarcane ethanol byproducts. Intensification of cattle production by integration with sugarcane production releases pasture area to produce more biofuels, without needing more land for cattle production. The release of pasture land to produce more sugarcane results in what we call “avoided ILUC”, the resultant reduced GHG emissions compared to conventional sugarcane ethanol, because no additional land is needed to accommodate an additional sugarcane ethanol production. Simulations were performed using the Virtual Sugarcane Biorefinery (VSB) model developed by the Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory (CTBE). We calculated as economic parameters the internal rate of return (IRR), net present value (NPV) and payback time. Climate impacts were assessed via Life Cycle Assessment. Sugarcane and cattle integration decreases overall climate impacts compared to non-integrated systems. Techno-economic feasibility is achieved by additional land rental revenues for released pasture area and by carbon credits.