Agroindustry calculated the carbon footprint of ethanol

The greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory will be fundamental in public policy that seeks to promote the development of alternative energy.

In 2017, the sugar mills and Cenicaña together built the greenhouse gas inventory and calculated the carbon footprint of ethanol produced by the Colombian sugarcane agribusiness, which will be essential for the application of resolution 1962 of 2017 of the Ministry of the Environment that sets a limit on these environmental indicators.

For this, data on fuel consumption, electrical energy and use of inputs were collected from field work, through harvesting, transportation to factories, sugar processing, electricity generation, sugar refining, production alcohol fuel and waste treatment, from which GHG emissions were calculated in terms of kg of CO2eq/m3 EtOH.

The data was collected in formats designed by Cenicaña and previously validated by the mills, in which different areas participated due to the number of processes involved. "From the field to the security and surveillance areas, they participated in one way or another in the construction of this inventory," explained David Palacios, chemical engineer of the Cenicaña Factory Process Program.

To guarantee the quality of the data collected, the guidelines of the ISO 14064-1 standard were followed and certification of the inventory was achieved by the Mexican company. Sustainable Solutions, being the first agribusiness in Colombia to obtain this guarantee.


In the construction of the baseline for 2016, it was determined that the weighted average carbon footprint for ethanol produced in Colombia was 567 kgCO2eq/m3EtOH, with a maximum of 651 and a minimum of 472 kgCO2eq/m3EtOH.

These data are essential to make comparisons with other agro-industries and for the application of the Government resolution that establishes a limit for the carbon footprint of ethanol that is marketed in Colombia and that came into effect on December 29, 2017.

According to David Palacios, the inventory shows that “the greatest contribution to the indicator corresponds to field activities, mainly those associated with nitrogen fertilization; During harvest, the greatest emission comes from the use of fossil fuels in agricultural and transport machinery; factory and distillery emissions are associated with the use of fuels; in the cogeneration plant the differences are marked by the mills that use coal as additional fuel; and in terms of waste treatment, the composting plant is the one that contributes the most emissions ”.

From the GHG inventory of the six mills with distillery, the carbon footprint for the sugar produced by them was calculated, where the weighted average is 350 kgCO2eq/ t sugar, with a maximum of 379 and a minimum of 329 kgCO2eq/ t sugar.

While this inventory and carbon footprint calculation are important in implementing the resolution, they are also first and foremost important in driving the adoption of improvement processes and committing both mills and growers to more sustainable processes.

Knowing the carbon footprint of the process is very important because it allows us to identify the impact that operations are having in relation to GHG emissions and to develop improvement plans and projects focused on sustainability. This also demonstrates the commitment with our clients and the country in the fulfillment of the global sustainable development objectives ”

Sandra Castillo
Head of Productivity and Environment of Manuelita.

Information letter 
Year 5 / Number 2 / December 2017

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