First Commercial Scale Brazilian ETBE to be Imported to Japan

Jan. 24. 2008
Marubeni Corporation

Marubeni Corporation (Marubeni) has concluded a contract with Compania Petroquimica do Sul (COPESUL), a major Brazilian petro-chemical company, to supply 6,500KL of ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE), which is synthesized by mixing ethanol and isobutylene, to Japan Biofuels Supply LLP (JBSL), which is a cooperative business organization of the Japanese oil companies. The cargo is scheduled to leave Brazil in February 2008.

In accordance with the government program to reduce CO2 emission, which is based upon the Kyoto protocol, Japanese oil industry plans to add 7% of ETBE to gasoline. 840,000KL of ETBE, most of which is to be covered by import, will be blended with gasoline in 2010. In January 2007, Japanese oil industry has established JBSL as a cooperative business organization. JBSL has been conducting demonstration program for 2007 and 2008 prior to full-scale ETBE utilization, and has already imported two cargoes of ETBE from Europe (approx. 14,000KL in total).

With its vast land, Brazil has been producing sugarcane-origin ethanol and ETBE with lowest cost in the world. It has been their strong wish, at the same time, to export those products to Japan. Provided that the quality and cost advantage of Brazilian ETBE to be imported this time is confirmed, stable supply to JBSL could be possible on long-term contract basis after 2009 onwards.

Marubeni has been positively working on environment-friendly bio-fuel business. For instance, it is constructing bio-diesel plants with annual production capacity of 400,000KL in cooperation with a Brazilian grain trader, Agrenco group. It is also making supply of bio-ethanol production plants, domestically and internationally, with Tsukishima Kikai Co. Ltd.


1. Compania Petroquimica do Sul (Copesul) is a petro-chemical company with its headquarter and main plant in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil, producing 2,900,000 tons of basic chemicals per year (including 200,000KL of ETBE per year). Its annual turnover was US$4.8B in 2006. Integration with Braskem, which is another petro-chemical giant in Brazil, has been announced last year. Upon completion of such integration, the company will be the 3rd largest petro-chemical company in Americas, following Dow Chemical and Exxon Mobil Chemical.

2. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan must reduce its GHG emissions by 6% from 1990 level. According to the Japanese government plan, transportation sector is supposed to use 500,000KL (crude oil equivalent) bio-fuels in 2010. It has been so far agreed between Japanese Government and oil industry to use 840,000KL of ETBE (360,000KL of bio-ethanol, 210,000 KL of crude oil equivalent).

3. ETBE (ethyl tertiary butyl ether) is synthesized by mixing isobutylene (approx. 57%) and ethanol (approx. 43%) (840,000KL of ETBE contain 360,000KL of ethanol). In Japan, ETBE-blended (7%) gasoline is being sold as “bio-gasoline”. It is utilized in Europe as well since no modification is required for vehicles and distribution equipment in comparison to direct blend of ethanol.

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