Discover the Brazilian Macauba, the Main Raw Material for Biofuel on a Global Scale

The plant has excellent oil productivity potential per hectare, it is highly competitive compared to other crops, and Macauba’s its sustainable cultivation can play a vital role in restoring degraded ecosystems and promoting biodiversity.

The Brazilian Macauba was chosen as the raw material that will be transformed into a state-of-the-art renewable fuel. This announcement and an intense exchange of experiences about the plant, rich in vegetable oil, will be one of the main topics of debate during COP28, in Dubai.

Scientifically known as Acrocomia aculeata, Macauba has a productive life of up to 40 years, being an adaptable plant that can thrive in various climatic conditions, and with optimal growth in tropical climates, such as the Brazilian Cerrado. It is known for its tolerance to well-defined drought periods and considerable temperature variations. With the adoption of good agronomic management practices, degraded areas can be recovered. Victor Rafael Barra, Head of Agribusiness for Renewable Fuels at Acelen, the energy company leading the biofuel project with Macauba, explains that the palm tree is what is called a high-performance plant – it can generate seven times more oil per hectare/year than soybeans, for example. These oils, extracted from the pulp of Macauba fruits and almonds, are fully suitable for use in the production of biofuels such as green diesel (HVO – Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) and Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

Renowned Brazilian Universities and Research Institutions, such as Embrapa, IAC – Campinas Agronomic Institute, UFV – Federal University of Vicosa, and Esalq/USP, already recognize and expand research into the potential of Macauba. In Brazil, it can be found in natural populations with variable extensions, particularly in the cerrados of Minas Gerais, but its distribution covers several states, including Goias, Tocantins, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Sao Paulo, Roraima, Para, Maranhao, Piaui, Ceara, and Bahia. The project envisages planting in an area of 200,000 hectares of degraded pastures, equivalent to 280,000 football fields.

In the sustainability field, Macauba plays a critical role in mitigating climate change due to its outstanding carbon sequestration potential. The plant contributes to the capture and storage of carbon from the atmosphere, playing a significant role in reducing global levels of greenhouse gases. In addition to supporting the preservation and recovery of the biome through cultivation, the complete production chain of biofuel produced from Macauba will contribute to reducing CO2 emissions.

“The Macauba cultivation by Acelen will be carried out in accordance with the best agricultural and environmental practices, promoting the maximum productive potential of the plant, using agribusiness 4.0 and 5.0 tools, favoring carbon capture in plantations and the reduction of CO2 emissions, from seed to fuel. The project, headed by Acelen’s Agribusiness team, is marked by its innovation, involving exceptional professionals with consolidated experience in large-scale energy crop projects, who know how to use science in favor of development and innovation, and with this we will adopt pioneering protocols together with consolidated agricultural practices,” says Victor Rafael Barra.

The biorefining project will play a crucial role in Brazil’s leadership in energy transition. With a R$12 billion investment over the next 10 years, Acelen will implement agro-industrial Macauba cultivation hubs on 200,000 hectares. Those hubs will focus on degraded areas, aiming to produce vegetable oils that will be annually transformed into 1 billion liters of green renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel. The project will promote a new value chain, creating 90,000 direct and indirect jobs, 70% of which will be permanent, and it will benefit thousands of family farmers.