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History, evolution, and environmental impact of biodiesel in Brazil: A


Fernando C. De Oliveira , Suani T. Coelho

Institute of Energy and Environment, University of So Paulo, Av. Prof. Luciano Gualberto, 1289, So Paulo, SP 05508-010, Brazil



Life cycle
Used cooking oil

In the last decade several scientic papers have dealt with the damages fossil fuels did to our environment.
Carbon dioxide has been blamed the chief culprit since it is produced by the automobile eet that uses diesel or
gasoline as a fuel. As a result, several countries are implementing public policies aimed at the replacement of
fossil fuels by renewable ones, such as biodiesel. Brazil has become one of them, since the biodiesel production
has increased from 736 m3 to 3,419,838 m3 in less than ten years. Therefore, this paper intends to briey review
the literature on the history, evolution, and the environmental aspects of biodiesel in Brazil in order to show its
positive economic impact on the Brazilian economy, in addition to showing how important this biofuel is to the
environment by providing an overview of its advantages when compared to fossil diesel.

1. Introduction
In the 1950s American geologist M. K. Hubbert predicted that oil
production in the United States would have its peak between the late
60s and early 70s and, after reaching the maximum, would tend to
reduce [1]. In fact, in 1970 his prediction became reality, with the
American production reaching its peak that year [2]. Since then, much
has been written about peak oil, propagated by Hubbert, including its
estimated peak of world oil production in the 2000s with a trajectory
curve similar to the graph shown in Fig. 1.
Simmons [4] and Deeyes [5], among others, also ponder that the
peak of world oil production will probably occur during this decade
[2010] and will never rise again. Hirsch [6] says that oil experts predict
that oil peaking will occur soon. In his study, published in 2005, he
states that soon can be within 20 years, which sets the time frame to
end at around the year 2025.
Although there is no precise date or time when peak oil will occur,
such scenario requires attention not only for the likely shortage of fossil
fuels and the alternatives to mitigate it, but especially for problems that
are related to energy security. In spite of the possibility that new
reserves do exist, those will be rarer, less accessible, and will have
higher drilling and prospection costs [7]. Therefore, it is essential to
nd alternative and if possible, renewable sources of energy to
mitigate or even to solve the environmental problems caused by fossil
fuel usage so that these alternative sources could replace the dirty ones
as they exhaust [8].
In that sense, some countries, including Brazil, have found alter-

native and renewable sources of energy, such as sugar cane ethanol and
biodiesel produced from various raw materials.
The growth of biodiesel production in Brazil in the last decade
brought along increasing concerns about the impacts it may cause on
the environment. Although life cycle assessment studies cited later on
this paper have shown that biodiesel is not totally clean, some studies
have described biodiesel as the source of several environmental
benets when that biofuel is compared to fossil diesel. Therefore, this
paper intends to briey review the literature on the history, evolution
and the environmental aspects of biodiesel in Brazil and to show its
importance when it comes to curbing carbon dioxide emissions , in
addition to presenting the current state of the Brazilian biodiesel
program and the contribution it might oer to similar biofuels
programs from other developing nations.
2. Biodiesel in the world
The 2014 report from the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the
21st Century (REN21), states that biodiesel and ethanol have been
responsible for most of the renewable fuels used in the global transport
eet. In Brazil, as in the United States and in some European countries,
both biofuels represent increasing market share. Biodiesel, in particular, had the largest increase among the biofuels in the last decade
such growth represented 15 times [9] the production volume from
2002 to 2012 (Fig. 2). In 2013 alone, according to the same report,
world production and consumption of biofuels in transport increased
7%, accounting for just over 116 billion liters, of which biodiesel

Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses:, (F.C. De Oliveira), (S.T. Coelho).
Received 27 July 2015; Received in revised form 11 October 2016; Accepted 31 October 2016
Available online xxxx
1364-0321/ 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article as: De Oliveira, F.C., Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews (2016),

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews xx (xxxx) xxxxxxxx

F.C. De Oliveira, S.T. Coelho

Fig. 1. Estimated peak of world oil production [3].

represented 26 billion most of the production and consumption

belonging to the European market.
For years the European Union market has been responsible for the
largest regional producer of biodiesel. In 2013, for example, it
accounted for about 10.5 billion liters (Table 1) of production of fatty
acid methyl ester, although its share in the global market corresponding to about 42% remained the same in recent years [9]. On the
other hand, the production of biodiesel in the United States has
increased rapidly, representing 17% of the world's total, for a production of 4.8 billion liters in 2013 (Table 1). In the same year, the number
of biodiesel producers in the U.S. market reached 115, for a total
installed capacity of nearly 8.5 billion liters [9].
Not only in the U.S. biodiesel production had a jump; in Asia it has
also grown rather quickly. Indonesia, for example, has increased its
biodiesel production considerably since 2013 as the result of new
national biofuel policies, placing the country among the world's largest
biodiesel producers [11]. Thailand held a 30% increase in the production of ethanol and biodiesel in 2013. That growth resulted primarily
from a plan that the country has implemented for the development of
renewable energy. In China, demand for biofuels was driven in part by
tax and business incentives, as the country complements its small
annual national production of less than 0.2 billion liters of biodiesel
with about 1.9 billion liters of imported fuel (p.35) [9]. However,
biodiesel there has suered a blow since government decided to tax the
trade of imported biodiesel a political decision to support local
reneries that produce fossil diesel for the domestic market. REN21
says that among other oilseeds, vegetable oils from jatropha and
coconut are being used to replace fossil diesel to supply generators in
a growing number of countries. In Thailand, the biodiesel to generate
electricity is being produced from used cooking oil, while in London the
frying oil has been accepted to supply the urban bus eet, whereas in

Table 1
Biodiesel global production, top 16 countries and EU-27, 2013 [9].

Production (billion liters)

United States


Johannesburg, South Africa, biogas and biodiesel were the biofuels

considered to power the same type of public transportation [9].
3. Biodiesel in Brazil
The search for an alternative source of fuel that is renewable,
technically, and economically viable has grown considerably in recent
years in Brazil. Biodiesel, for being almost fully compatible with
petroleum diesel and a partially renewable energy source of energy
[12,13], is taking up space in the composition of the Brazilian energy

Fig. 2. World biodiesel production [10].

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F.C. De Oliveira, S.T. Coelho

3.1. History of PNPB
According to Bailis [19], the Brazilian rst experiments with
biodiesel dates back to the 1920s when the National Technology
Institute began studying that biofuel. However, only during the rst
oil shocks, in the 70s, the Brazilian biofuels program gained momentum through PROLCOOL (National Alcohol Program), an ethanol
program created on November 14, 1975, by Federal Decree No. 76593/
1975 [20], and PROLEO (National Biodiesel Program), created
through Resolution No. 007, dated October 22, 1980 [21], as a
response to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
OPEC's 1973 oil embargo [19]. While the PROLCOOL advanced in
spite of some drawbacks during the 80s and gave birth to what is
considered by many the best Brazilian biofuels program to date, the
PROLEO ceased to exist primarily due to the drop in oil prices.
The two major biodiesel production incentive mechanisms appeared later on with PROBIODIESEL (Brazilian Program of
Technological Development for Biodiesel), created by a Presidential
Decree No. 702 and introduced by the Department of Science and
Technology (MCT) on October 30, 2002 [21], and the PNPB (Brazilian
acronym for Programa Nacional de Produo e Uso de Biodiesel),
created by Federal Law No. 11097/2005 on January 13, 2005 [22],
which was responsible for ocially introducing the biodiesel into the
Brazilian energy matrix, whose context and legal framework provided
the basis for a broader program scope.
The creation of the PNPB program was also the result of public
policies to promote social inclusion through the strengthening of family
farming by incorporating it into the biodiesel production chain, as well
as to promote the environmental sustainability and economic viability
of the industry, based on the premise of reducing the import of diesel
[11,19,23]. That program also intended to ensure that the production
of biodiesel was economically viable and focused on the diversication
of the Brazilian energy matrix while promoting the consumption of
renewable and less polluting fuels, in addition to regulating the biofuels
market and establishing the mandatory minimum percentage blend of
biodiesel into petroleum diesel [22,2426] throughout the entire
Brazilian territory to commence years ahead as well as to
encouraging the diversication of raw materials other than soybean
for the production of biodiesel in all regions of the country [27].
Since one of the leading goals of PNPB at the time of its conception
was to promote social inclusion, the decision of the Department of
Agrarian Development to make it possible found support through the
Selo Combustvel Social SCS (Social Fuel Stamp), established
through Decree No. 5297, on December 6, 2004 [28], whose original
purpose was to x the lack of social inclusion that the PNPB program
had failed to promote. Technically, the SCS was a mechanism to award
a stamp to biodiesel producers that purchased part of their raw
materials from small farmers which, in turn, were members of rural
cooperatives that were registered in the Programa Nacional de
Fortalecimento da Agricultura Familiar PRONAF (National

Fig. 3. Feedstocks used to produce biodiesel in Brazil, March 2015 [15].

Table 2
Percentage of feedstocks used for biodiesel production by region, March 2015 [15].






Soybean oil
Beef tallow
Cotton oil
Other fats
Used cooking oil
Pork fat
Palm oil











Note: The feedstock percentage refers to the total processed and it was extracted from the
Brazilian Petroleum Agency ANP, on April 29, 2015. Not all producers had provided
the information up to the day the bulletin was closed.

matrix by presenting some advantages, discussed ahead in this paper,

when compared to the mineral diesel. The incentive for the production
of biodiesel, regardless of its source of raw materials, aims to
increasingly reduce the pollution that petroleum diesel produces, as
stated in the 2030 National Energy Plan a report created in 2007 by
Empresa de Pesquisa Energtica EPE (Energy Research Company)
for the Department of Mines and Energy: the basic guideline,
inherently considered in the projection of nal energy consumption,
was to prioritize the use of renewable energy. Thus, in all scenarios, the
growth of biodiesel and ethanol [may] take place of oil-derived liquid
fuels, especially diesel and gasoline (p. 16) [14]. Therefore, biodiesel
signicance grows as its production and consumption have increased
considerably since 2005 despite all the diculties that biodiesel has
faced in Brazil, partially due to the overwhelming dominance of
soybean as the main feedstock [15], as shown in Fig. 3 and again in
Table 2, where the feedstocks have been distributed by percentages, by
Fig. 4 shows that biodiesel production in Brazil took a giant leap,
from 736 m3 in 2005 to 3,419,838 m in 2014 [1618]. There is a wide
supremacy for the transportation sector in those gures, representing
84% of that consumption, followed by the agricultural sector, with 13%,
industrial 2%, commercial and public sectors together with only 1%

Fig. 4. Biodiesel production (B100), 2005 2014 (m3). Adapted [18].

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F.C. De Oliveira, S.T. Coelho

as its viscosity and lubricant properties are beyond the required

technical specication [11,30]. That reason alone was responsible for
killing any hopes that the government would otherwise have in
persuading the growers of the castor oil plant to produce that oilseed
as an abundant and alternative feedstock for the biodiesel industry.
However, despite some misconceptions throughout the implementation of the program, the SCS has had some positive points. Minelli
[32] says that in 2013 a large number of over 83,000 registered farmers
came from settlements, and were responsible for generating R$ 11.5
billion (approximately US$ 5 bi) in contracts from 2008 to 2014. With
the B7 blend (7% biodiesel added to diesel), he says, the total number
of contracts should generate R$ 4 billion (about US$ 1.7 bi) in 2015
The number of jobs created with the B5 represented 86 thousand
positions, whereas with the B7 should be 132 thousand, and 204
thousand positions with the B10, representing 113% more jobs than
those created by the petroleum diesel industry [32].
The 2023 Ten-year Energy Expansion Plan forecasts that in that
year (2023) there will be a domestic demand for six billion liters of the
B7 and 8.6 billion liters of the B10 blend [32].
Considering that the current production capacity is around 7.6
billion liters (Fig. 5), there should be a shortage of 1 billion liters of
biodiesel, each year, after 2023, if the production remains the same.
That suggests that the internal consumption of biodiesel not only can
absorb the entire production from current family farmers, it can also
open up ways for others to join the SCS program.
Likewise, on the external front, there will be a growing demand for
biofuels. Europeans, for example, according to the Europe 2020 report
[33], are concerned with detailing parameters for climate and energy
policies to be adopted as of 2020, and wish to establish goals for the
European Community to reduce greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions by
at least 20% compared to 1990 levels or by 30%, if the conditions are
right, and to increase the share of renewable energy sources in our
nal energy consumption to 20% (p. 11) [33]. Although the report has
not stated that the Europeans will use ethanol or biodiesel.

Table 3
Production, compulsory demand, and nominal capacity authorized by ANP, March 2015

capacity (m3)

Monthly biodiesel
production (m3)

Mandatory demand
for B100 (m3)





Program for the Strengthening of Family Farming) [28,29]. Once the

producers got their stamps, they were granted priorities to sell their
fuel through public auctions, conducted by the Brazilian Petroleum
Agency ANP.
The biodiesel market at that time, as still is now, was mainly
derived from soybean [19] and controlled by big companies and large
farmers, mostly based in the South, Southeast and Midwest regions of
Brazil (Table 3 shows these regions overwhelming dominance), in
which the cultivation of soybean was already a big business, especially
in the South. Although they produce biodiesel from cotton and
sunower, the volume is signicantly small compared to that of
soybean oil.
Bailis says that soy tends to be planted in large and heavily
mechanized monoculture plantations that are not amenable to smallholder inclusion (p. 103) [19]. As a result, farmers from the South,
mainly, were better prepared to take advantage of the biodiesel
program than the small family farmers from the less developed
North and Northeast regions of Brazil, whom the program's primary
target was intended to, and whose feedstocks were primarily based on
palm and castor biodiesel, respectively [30]. By launching the SCS
program, the idea was to reverse such unintended situation. However,
after eleven years of its implementation, the SCS has been deemed a
failure by many specialists, for dierent reasons.
One of the reasons that led the Social Fuel Stamp not to achieve the
success for which it was originally intended by the Brazilian government, was that the great promise to leverage the economy of the North
and Northeast was deposited in the production of castor oil, which is
easily accessible in both regions. The problem with castor, a perennial
shrub, was not only that it would not have scale to meet the demand of
biodiesel, since the domestic production was extremely low [31], but its
cost was high when compared to the cost of soybean biodiesel [19].
Along with that, and although appropriate to family farm production [19], much of the planting of castor was directed to supply raw
material for the manufacturing of lubricants, as well as for the
pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries whose added value is much
higher than that of biodiesel and therefore more protable [11].
Another reason was that despite being plentiful in the Northeast,
castor oil was technically deemed not suitable for producing biodiesel,

3.2. Evolution of biodiesel in Brazil

Back in 2005, right after the beginning of the PNPB program
when the biofuels industry in Brazil began the production of biodiesel
through the end of 2007, there was no mandate on the blending
percentages between fossil diesel and 100% pure biodiesel (B100),
although the 2% blend was already in place. However, at the very
beginning of 2008, the Brazilian government turned mandatory the
addition of the B100 to diesel (Fig. 6), in the following percentages: 2%
(B2), from January to June of that year; 3% (B3), from July 2008 to
June 2009; 4% (B4), from July to December 2009; and 5% (B5), from
January 2010 to June 2014. The growth of the production and
consumption made Brazil the fourth largest biodiesel producer in the
world by then [19,34].
At that time, biodiesel producers were already asking for another

Fig. 5. Biodiesel annual demand and accumulated nominal capacity. Adapted [15,32].

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F.C. De Oliveira, S.T. Coelho

Fig. 6. Biodiesel mandatory blends. Adapted [26,32].

3.3. Feedstocks for biodiesel in Brazil

Table 4
Traits of biodiesel feedstocks. Adapted [41].
Source:Adapted [41].

Oil content

Agricultural yield

Oil yield

(common name)








The selection of raw materials for the production of biodiesel is

based invariably on economics and product quality assurance, and can
be divided into three categories: vegetable oils, animal fats, and waste
oils [36].
At room temperature, vegetable oils are liquid such as soybean
oil, cotton, peanut, canola, palm, sunower and castor oil and animal
fats are gummy or solid such as beef tallow, sh oil and pork fat. And
the waste and fat oils are raw materials related to urban environments,
such as residual oils of domestic and industrial kitchens [36].
Vegetable oils are also associated with a better matching of
properties if compared to pure diesel, and play a relevant role in the
socio-economic context by being supportive of family farming, while
encouraging better living conditions and infrastructure to underserved
regions by oering alternatives to economic and environmental problems [37].

increase in the blending percentages. As a result, the government

acquiesced to their request by announcing the Provisional Measure
Number 647 (MP 647/14) [24], which further helped the production
by turning mandatory the following blends: 6% (B6), from July to
October 2014; and 7% (B7), according to government Law No. 13033/
2014 [18,25], beginning on November 2014 and remaining to this day.
Very recently, the government sanctioned Federal Law No. 13263, on
March 23, 2016, which alters Law No. 13033 to include the following
mandatory blending percentages in volume of biodiesel to fossil
diesel: 8%, 9% and 10%, to start within 12, 24, and 36 months,
respectively (Fig. 6), after the date of the enactment of that Law [26].
That Law also authorizes up to 36 months from its approval, and
after conducting tests and trials in engines that validate the use of the
mixture the addition of up to 15% by volume of biodiesel in the diesel
oil, and turns optional the voluntary addition of percentages above the
required ones, and the voluntary use of the mixture on public
transportation, rail transport, small equipment and vehicles intended
for mineral extraction and power generation, in tractors and other selfpropelled devices intended for pulling or dragging farm machinery or
for performing farm work [26].
With the implementation of the B7, market expectation is that the
production of the combined biodiesel blends (B5, B6 and B7) would
increase from 3.3 billion liters in 2014 to 4.4 billion liters in 2015 with
the B7 alone, hence reducing the idleness of the biodiesel industry from
about 60% [9] in 2013 to about 43% in 2015, considering that the
installed capacity would slightly be reduced to 7.6 billion liters [18,32].
As a matter of fact, the 2014 production forecast has been conrmed by
ANP, as shown in this paper [18], so those numbers would turn Brazil,
now, into the world's second largest biodiesel producer, trailing only
the United States, according to the newly released 2015 Global Status
Report, by REN21 [35].
Yet, notwithstanding the fact that the forecast is marching in
lockstep with the production, Minelli [32] says that the still low
occupancy level of the biodiesel plants might compromise the nancial
health of the sector, in addition to the diculties that the Brazilian
biodiesel industry has had in diversifying its feedstock options, by
choosing other raw materials besides soybean and beef tallow.
Furthermore, the drop on the installed capacity in 2014 was due to
the closing of several plants that were unable to keep up with their
prot margins throughout the whole year of 2013 and half of 2014
because of the frozen fossil fuel prices at that time.

3.3.1. Feedstocks based on vegetable oils Palm. Palm is an oilseed with great production potential
(Table 4) in oil per hectare up to 10 times greater than that of
soybean. Since palm production for biodiesel is less protable than it is
for food [38], it needs government incentives to encourage its
production for the biofuel. But even so, historically, palm production
has not reached large scale to meet the domestic demand for biodiesel
as its technology is not still well developed in order to make that
happen [19,38]. As its raw material has little commercial value for
biodiesel, palm plants must be near the production units in order to
cheapen the high costs related to long distance transportation [39].
Also, palm processing must be done within 48 h of harvest to avoid
rancidication; not to mention that biodiesel made from palm oil
solidies in the cold of the Southern states of Brazil, restricting its use
to the tropical climates that exist within the country. Hence, the most
appropriate geographic area to produce palm oil is up North, in the
Amazon ecosystem [39]. However, there are some negative aspects to
be addressed when considering biodiesel production from palm in that
area: apart from that region present a chaotic system of land distribution, its infrastructure is poor, the environmental legislation is restrictive, and the producing area is far from the consumer market
[11,39]. Likewise, the palm harvest in that region is manual and the
local labor is scarce and without qualication [39]. Sunower. Sunower stands in an intermediate position
between the soy and the peanut oilseeds. And its oil content per unit
of weight is 40%, which is a good yielding. However, if on the one hand
the sunower produced in small harvests through crop rotations can
yield 800 l of oil per hectare (yielding close to that of soy), on the other
hand the oil nourish characteristics may hinder its use for energy
purposes [40]. Castor. Castor bean is another prominent crop when

considering its high oil content, which is almost three times greater

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F.C. De Oliveira, S.T. Coelho

than that of soybean (Table 4). However, it provides low agricultural

yield in ton per hectare and oil yield in litter per hectare [41], besides
having high costs if compared to the cost of soybean [19,42],
considering the needs for intensive use of scarce labor in the harvest
[39]. Also, castor presents a poor production chain, its productivity in
the main producing region (Northeast) is low, and the production cycle
is relatively long [39].

In 2015, the share of beef tallow in the production of biodiesel

changed every month, but on average it was responsible for a slice of
18.43%. If that percentage represented an amount that was previously
seen only as a residue of the meat industry, and disposed of
inappropriately, nowadays there is a considerable environmental gain,
since that amount is now intended for the manufacture of a more
environmentally friendly fuel [49].

Although castor is not an edible feedstock, which is a good trait as it

does not compete with food, it has technical limitations that prevent it
from being used in the production of biodiesel, such as density and
viscosity above those recommended by ANP's technical standards
Furthermore, there is not enough scientic research with castor
bean in Brazil that would result in an increase of both productive
varieties and good seeds, compelling the producer to use grains that do
not have high quality [39].

3.3.3. Feedstock based on waste oil Used cooking oil. The residual oils and fats from domestic,
commercial and industrial use can also be recycled as raw material for
biodiesel production. That type of oil can be easily found in restaurants,
snack bars, fast food chain, in municipal sewage, in addition to
industrial kitchens where the frying of food occurs [47,50].
A widely used procedure in the production of food is frying by
immersion, which uses oils of vegetable fats as a means of heating
transfer. Such procedure is harmful to the environment, since it
generates a signicant volume of oils and fats that do not have a
proper disposal, considering that more than 80% is consumed in
households [8]. Hence, the oil dumped into the sewage system pollutes
the water and, consequently, the rivers, aquifers, and the soil [51].
The time to use these oils which can vary for each establishment
also becomes a problem, since in the long run there is a process of
oxidation, which is accelerated by high temperature and winds up
generating by-products that change the physical and chemical properties of the oil, making it unt for the use [52].
The growth of biodiesel production from used cooking oil increased
275% from 2010 to 2012, and 118% from 2012 to 2013, according to
data from the ANP [53].
In 2010 the production was nearly 5 million liters, while in 2013 it
reached more than 22 million liters in the rst 8 months of that year
[53]. So, the used cooking oil production growth turns that oil to
potentially supply about 13% of the biodiesel demand in Brazil [8].
Technically, biodiesel from used cooking oil has been found to have
similar properties to that of biodiesel from vegetable oil feedstocks,
when tests of exhaust emissions and performance were conducted [13].
So, the same advantages ascribed to classical biodiesel can also be
applied to biodiesel derived from this raw material, such as renewability, biodegradability, and lubricity [13], just to list a few. But the
disadvantages are also similar, albeit an even higher viscosity level due
to the fact that it has also higher free fatty acid content. Soybean. Although soybean is a greater source for protein

than it is for oil [40], it is an important feedstock for biodiesel in Brazil,
which represents about 75% of the Brazilian production. The reason for
such an enormous share rests not solely with the fact that soy is not
produced primarily for the biofuels market as it is to meet an everincreasing demand for protein meal [30,46], which includes the raw
material to feed chickens, pigs, and the cattle that are conned for the
production of meat, eggs and milk, whose global demand keeps
growing as a result of the economic growth and higher per capita
income, especially in emerging countries [39]. It is also due to a wellstructured and highly dynamic chain with up-to-date and precise
technologies, besides oering a traditional cultivation that is adapted
to produce with equal eectiveness throughout the entire Brazilian
territory [39]. Moreover, soy is an easy commodity to sell due to the
presence of very few producers worldwide (among them are Brazil,
Argentina, and the United States), to a very limited number of
exporters and to a large score of buyers nearly all countries [39]. Cotton. Cotton oil is the third most used feedstock to produce
biodiesel in Brazil. Its cost is even lower than that of soybean oil,
although the former is not considered as pure as the latter and, as such,
it needs specic pretreatment, which incurs in higher utilization costs
About 40% of the cotton plant is composed of ber, which has more
than 400 industrial utilizations, including those for the textile industry;
and 60% of seed, from which the oil (whose content is low, less than
20%) and the bran, which is directed for the manufacture of animal
food, are extracted [47].
Historically, cotton seed oil was the main vegetable oil produced in
Brazil during World War 2 [21]. In the 1970s the area used for cotton
production was as large as 4 million ha, putting Brazil into the world's
leading producers. Since then, mechanization is deemed accountable
for increasing cotton productivity ten times [11].

4. Environmental aspects of biodiesel

When it comes to the positive impacts that biodiesel causes on the
environment, its main advantage over fossil diesel is the reduction of
carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the atmosphere. Recently the
Brazilian Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA)
released a 36-page report entitled Benefcios Ambientais da Produo
e do Uso do Biodiesel (Environmental Benets of Biodiesel Production
and Use), which states that [translated into English] by adding up all
the biodiesel consumed in Brazil since 2008, the GHG avoided
emissions have already reached 21.8 million tons of CO2e; which is
the equivalent to planting nearly 158 million trees in an area
corresponding to 144 thousand football elds (p. 13) [49].
If we consider soy biodiesel replacing mineral diesel, for example,
Delta CO2 studies, from Esalq, reveal that the GHG reduction emissions range from 65% to 72%, depending on the scenario used in the
study [54]. Likewise, studies about the environmental benets of the
production and use of biodiesel, from the Brazilian Department of
Agriculture, the mitigation percentages of soy biodiesel start at 20%
and may reach 70% if the biodiesel used is the B100 [49]. Similar

3.3.2. Feedstock based on animal fat Beef tallow. Among the raw materials for the production of
biodiesel in Brazil, beef tallow is the second most used, mainly due to
the high production in the Southeast region. By having a structure
similar to that of vegetable oils, animal fats can be transformed into
biodiesel without major diculties [47,48]. The estimate of the
Brazilian sector is that 800 million kilograms of tallow are extracted
from the 40 million cattle heads that are slaughtered annually. And out
of that amount of tallow, about 400 million kilograms are allocated for
the production of biodiesel [49].

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews xx (xxxx) xxxxxxxx

F.C. De Oliveira, S.T. Coelho

Fig. 7. GHG emission reductions [55].

not only the involvement and collaboration of public and private

entities, but also the engagement of the academic community and the
society as a whole, whose intents will be to restore, maintain and
preserve environmental resources through sustainable economic
growth and the reduction of social inequalities [56].
For the Energy Sector (Table 6), the GHG emissions resulting from
the production and use of energy, projected to 2020, were reckoned by
the Brazilian Energy Research Company (Empresa de Pesquisa
Energtica EPE) taken into consideration the construction of
scenarios for demand forecasting of predictive models based on
economic and population estimates, plus the evolution of emissions
intensity in that sector.
In order to achieve the gures from Tables 5 and 6, the government
has come up with an action plan to mitigate and adapt to climate
changes that includes the prevention and control of deforestation of
natural biomes and the Amazon, as well as the mitigation of GHG
emissions from energy production and use [57].
Historically, Brazil has made commitments before the United
Nations to decrease the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases,
either by signing the Kyoto Protocol, or other climate agreements since
then, such as the recent Paris Agreement (COP21), at the end of 2015,
wherein Brazil has committed itself to cut GHG emissions in 37%
below the 2005 levels by the year 2025, and 43% by 2030.
One example of such concern happened when Brazil introduced the
ex-fuel technology (ethanol-gasoline) into the light vehicles market in
2002, year wherein the rst vehicle with a ex-fuel engine was
presented to the public in Brazil [30]. Two years later, for each 100
new vehicles that were sold domestically, 16 were equipped with that
kind of technology. In 2006, that number jumped to 76 and then to 86
in 2007. In 2010, more than 92 vehicles out of 100 ran with ex-fuel
engines [30].
In retrospect, since 2002, the Brazilian ex-fuel technology evolved
to a point in which the domestic automobile eet are able now to run
on gas-only in the tank, on ethanol-only, or on any blending combina-

percentages were found in the newsletter of the Union zur Frderung

von Oel und Proteinpanzen, from the German Federal Department of
Food and Agriculture, wherein the average reduction of GHGs of
biofuels is 60% (Fig. 7) compared to that of fossil fuels [55]. So, as the
Renewable Energy Directive stipulates a current reduction of 35%, and
50% for 2017 [55], the GHG emission reduction of biodiesel ts those
percentage requirements.
As per beef tallow, there is still no consistent studies in Brazil on
reductions in emissions of GHGs, but it is believed the percentage can
be equal to that of soybean biodiesel, or even higher, if the comparison
made, for example, is between the disposal of the grease or the use
thereof for biodiesel.
Law No. 12187, sanctioned by the President of Brazil on December
29, 2009 and appended by the Presidential Decree No. 7390, on
December 9, 2010, which was created to clarify some points of that Law
establishes principles, objectives, guidelines and instruments of the
National Policy on Climate Changes (Poltica Nacional sobre as
Mudanas Climticas PNMC) and claries terms thereof, such as
emissions and sources of emissions, greenhouse gases and the impacts
caused by them, adaptation, mitigation, and how to reduce the
vulnerability of natural and human systems against the current and
expected eects of climate change [56].
That Law also states that any measures taken to mitigate any
emissions must have a nationwide scope and be designed to anticipate,
prevent or minimize the causes identied as directly related to
anthropogenic activities. In order to achieve the PNMC's goals, the
country will adopt, as a national voluntary commitment, actions to
mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, so to reduce between 36.1% and
38.9% projected emissions until 2020 [56] of 3,236 million tons of CO2
equivalent, which is the total emissions of the National Scenario,
according to Table 5, representing 1,168 million tons and 1,259 million
tons of CO2 equivalent, respectively [57]. Moreover, it will be essential

Table 5
National Scenario by Sector - Projected GHG emissions for 2020. Adapted [57].


Land use change

Industrial processes and waste treatment


Table 6
Energy Scenario - Projected GHG emissions for 2020. Adapted [57].

EPE Scenario
Emissions Increment (without the EPE mitigation actions)
Year 2020 Scenario




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F.C. De Oliveira, S.T. Coelho

tion between the two fuels according to the taste of the owner or to
the price of the fuel. In that sense, and following the ethanol example,
biodiesel can be another way to improve air quality if used not just by
the public transportation sector, but by the recreational vehicles as
However, if on one hand biodiesel's GHG avoided emissions is an
environmental benet against which fossil diesel cannot compete, on
the other hand recent studies [17,48] show that in Brazil the biodiesel
from soybean and beef tallow can bring worrying consequences for the
potential sustainability of the industry [19]. Even considering partial
attribution factors of such impacts to biodiesel since it is made from
byproducts of the production of soy-based grain and beef both raw
materials present environmental impacts [58] related to land use and
land use change, mainly GHG [16], as a good chunk of its production
uses imported methanol instead of locally produced ethanol which
turns the methyl route into the most used in the transesterication
process [48,59]. The justication for using the methyl route occurs by
the fact that the production and research and development (R & D) of
ethanol are quite restricted in Brazil [48].
Likewise, biodiesel has also problems with hygroscopicity (absorbing moisture) and higher nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide
(CO), besides the presence of hydrocarbons (HC) which, in spite of
having lower emissions when measured at the tailpipe, these are higher
when the whole biodiesel life cycle is taken into consideration, due to
hexane release during the soy processing and the volatilization that
occurs during the agrochemical products application [60].
In addition, soy biodiesel causes environmental impacts because of
the intensive use of pesticides, herbicides, among other forms of direct
pollution that put pressure on the environment [58]. By using
environmental evaluation methods based on three indicators
Emergy Accounting, Embodied Energy Analysis, and Material Flow
Accounting to assess potential damages caused to soil, water and air,
the authors suggest that "soy biodiesel cannot be considered a fully
renewable source, since its production is heavily dependent on the use
of non-renewable resources in agriculture, process and transport" [58].
When the entire production chain of soybean oil is assessed,
Cavalett & Ortega [58] say that the environmental benets are not
so clear as advocated by many authors, as part of the energy used in its
production is from fossil fuels, either by the use of fertilizers and
agrochemical products, or through the use of machines in the
agriculture and in industrial phase. The farming phase, for example,
was portrayed by Esteves et al. [46] as the worst among the whole life
cycle phases of the biodiesel production (Fig. 8).
Therefore, by analyzing all the production phases of soybean
biodiesel, it is essential to perform a complete assessment study that
would clearly show the advantages and disadvantages in the use of that
biofuel [46], precisely because depending on the raw material used to
make it, the production process may require huge amounts of fossil

fuels [58].
Given the scenario in which biodiesel begins to gain importance in
the composition of the Brazilian energy matrix, but its negative
environmental impacts must be observed, it is vital to consider
measurement tools that can provide results that will enable the
quantication and the extension of the biodiesel negative impacts.
One of the tools for that measurement is the Life Cycle Assessment
LCA. As LCA is a tool for quantifying the impacts associated with the
energy and resources needed to make and deliver a product or service
(p. 423) [61], it is essential to analyze the life cycle of biodiesel in order
to determine its environmental impacts after the transformation of the
raw material, given that in the process ethyl or methyl is used. This
approach will allow the estimation of the cumulative damage throughout the cycle, providing a comprehensive overview and enabling a
better understanding of the system and its trade-os [62,63].
As methanol is derived from fossil fuel sources so non-renewable
and ethanol in Brazil is produced from sugar-cane hence, renewable and non-fossil , without proper LCA studies, one might automatically think that the methyl route is the one that causes greater
damages to the environment. However, if an enormous amount of
nitrogen, for instance, is deposited in the soil at the time of planting the
sugar-cane that will be used as raw material in the production of
ethanol, emissions of greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide, can
increase, says Victoria [64], thus, canceling out the advantage of
biodiesel produced by the ethyl route. Likewise, it is a common practice
of the ethanol plants to use fertilizer concurrently to the application of
residue of industrial processing of alcohol, called vinasse, in order to
speed up the process. The combination of both produces nitrous oxide
in the soil [65]. When that happens, the advantage of the ethylic route
osets again. So, life-cycle studies, in those cases, are fundamental to
understanding the magnitude of such damages, as shown in Fig. 9.
5. Economic impact
Knothe [13] says that the cost of feedstock for biodiesel production,
especially if it comes from used cooking oil, has become increasingly
inexpensive [12,13,45,51,6668]. In Germany, for example, a considerable chunk of biodiesel is produced as a result of the lower price it
has over the equivalent fossil fuel [68]. Hence, besides being technically
competitive with fossil diesel, in recent years its production and use
have expanded exponentially in several countries around the world
(p.5796) [13], and has attracted considerable attention due to its
relatively low environmental impact (p.362) [68].
Consequently, in addition to being environmentally better than
petroleum diesel, particularly in regards to GHG emissions as less
fossil diesel will be consumed Fig. 10 shows an economic benet:
since July 2013 its cost at plant, in Brazil, has been equated to that of
imported diesel [32] and even smaller, at times.
Fig. 10 also shows that there was a considerable drop in the average
production price of biodiesel during the rst 6 months of 2013, when it
dropped from R$2,60 (in Brazilian currency) in January/February to R
$2,03 in June/July, and further to R$1,89 in September/October
when it became lower than that of imported diesel for the rst time.
Among the reasons for such drop, the Brazilian soy production in
2012/2013 was 82 million tons, compared with 66 million tons in
2011/2012 [53].
That huge crop of soy brought about a very large supply of that
feedstock into the domestic market of biodiesel. As a result, biodiesel
prices at the plants dropped [46] considerably, resulting in more
biodiesel sold in public auctions, whose volume jumped from 496
million liters in January 2013 to 515 million liters in July of the same
year. Similarly, the volume of biodiesel oered in the same auctions
increased setting a new record from 651 to 765 million liters in the
same period [69]. An additional boost came with Leilo 47 (Auction
47), from which the purchase of biodiesel for voluntary addition to
diesel also became mandatory through biodiesel auctions.

Fig. 8. LCA impacts from biodiesel production [46].

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews xx (xxxx) xxxxxxxx

F.C. De Oliveira, S.T. Coelho

Fig. 9. Comparison of impact category indicators for each biodiesel route and feedstock. Adapted [47].

to the reduction in the import of the fossil fuel [32].

If the fossil diesel sold to end users in Brazil had no biodiesel in it,
the proportion of imported diesel in relation to the domestic consumption (external dependencies) would go up from 18 to about 24%,
producing a negative impact on the balance of trade that would be
greater than the observed one, in addition to fostering a dirtier
environment [76].

Though the biodiesel production increase is good, by contrast it

made the industry's idleness rate to be higher than 60%, as the
accumulated nominal capacity hit the historical level of 7.9 billion
liters to meet a biodiesel demand of 2.9 billion litters in 2013.
Besides those reasons, the price of imported diesel in 2013 kept a
tendency of high marks as a result of the Petrobras pressure to equalize
domestic prices with the international ones [70]. One example is that
the price of imported diesel in September 2013 on a per liter basis
was about R$ 1,90 and in September 2012 it was about R$ 1,50. Such
dierence represents an increase of 26% [71].
EMBRAPA [74] says that a cheaper biodiesel price, when compared
to that of fossil diesel, plays a positive factor upon the ination, since
the price of bus tickets is directly related to the price of fossil diesel
mostly used by the transport sector in Brazil.
While on one hand the cost of biodiesel at the last two ANP auctions
in 2014 (October and December) were higher than the cost of imported
diesel due to the drop in oil prices, as well as to the supercially
freezing of the mineral diesel and gasoline consumer prices at the
pump until the beginning of 2015 on the other hand, as the Brazilian
currency (real) has constantly devalued against the U.S. dollar since the
beginning of 2015 in addition to the recent reintroduction of a
government tari (CIDE) on fuels, fostering a major increase in fuel
prices, which triggered a wave of protests by truck drivers throughout
the country [75] the cost of biodiesel became cheaper and highly
competitive again during the last ANP auctions in 2015 [69], keeping
its production and marketability nancially attractive.
As a result, the increase in the production of biodiesel will continue
to foster a positive impact on the Brazilian balance of trade, generating
an internal economy of approximately US$1 billion a year, considering
that the country will cease to import nearly 1.2 billion liters of fossil
diesel [32]. From 2005 to 2014, the Brazilian biodiesel production was
about 17.4 billion liters, representing savings of US$ 12.9 billion, due

6. Advantages and disadvantages of biodiesel

6.1. Advantages
Dierently from Otto-cycle, diesel-cycle engines work on the basis
of compression and, therefore, do not need spark plugs. Since Rudolf
Diesel introduced it during the World's Fair in Paris, in 1900, its
importance for the transportation business increased considerably.
Pomeroy [77] says that 94% of all cargo in the United States, for
example, whether it is by trucks, locomotives, ships or freighters, are
transported using diesel as fuel, and 95% of buses and heavy
construction machinery are driven with diesel oil in their tanks.
Likewise, the majority of the diesel consumed in the Brazilian
transportation sector comes from fossil fuels, placing it among the
foremost aggressor elements of the environment [78].
Given the engine operability context, biodiesel is presented as
advantageous to fossil diesel [60] because of its biodegradability
features, for being less toxic, its sulfur content is lower (positive factor
for not increasing pollution), as are smaller its hydrocarbon and carbon
monoxide emissions at the tailpipe (due to the presence of oxygen) and
particulate matter, in addition to less CO2 emission [60,7779] and,
equivalent to 69.3% lower than that of fossil diesel [58], and safer
handling due to inherent and better lubricity as well as higher ash
point [13], as shown in Tables 7 and 8.

Fig. 10. Average prices of biodiesel, imported diesel, and diesel S10, S500, at ANP auctions. Adapted [72,73].

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F.C. De Oliveira, S.T. Coelho

Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) in the atmosphere [77,79], and it has issues

related to land use, land use change, pressure on natural biomes [46],
hygroscopicity, and the cetane index, which is a measure of a fuel's
ignition delay, and it is a signicant factor in determining the quality of
the fuel, whose calculation is based on its density and point of
The index varies depending on the raw material used and on the
type of alcohol ethanol or methanol involved in the transesterication process [84]. Plus, the longer the fatty acid carbon chains and the
more saturated the molecules, the higher the cetane number [page
unknown] [84]. And the higher the cetane number, the easier the
combustion. As an example, for the B100, the index is around 55; for
the B20 blend, it is 50. With respect to the fossil diesel cetane number,
the range goes from around 48, for regular diesel, to around 55, for
premium diesel [84,85]. Minimum and maximum cetane numbers vary
according to the state (in the United States) or the region (in Europe).
Hence, depending on the percentage of the blend, and the place,
biodiesel could be at a disadvantage to fossil diesel with respect to the
cetane index or cetane number.

Table 7
Physical and chemical properties of vegetable oils. Adapted [45].







Density (g/
20 C
Flash point
Acid value




























> 50

> 10













7. Final remarks
Table 8
Properties of diesel and biodiesel from different feedstocks. Adapted [45].

Diesel (D2)





Flash point (C)
Viscosity at 40 C (cSt)
Caloric value (MJ/kg)
Pour point (C)
Cetane number







In the face of a likely oil shortage in the future, plus the damages
that fossil fuels cause to the environment, especially from the CO2 that
is expelled mainly from petroleum-powered vehicles, it is imperative to
nd alternative and if possible renewable sources of biofuels which,
in turn, could replace the pollutant ones as they exhaust.
Brazil found a way to improve air quality many years ago upon the
introduction of the ex-fuel technology (ethanol-gasoline) into the light
vehicles market in 2002. In that sense, biodiesel can be another way to
improve air quality if used not just by the public transportation sector,
but by the recreational vehicles as well, as it is the case with ethanol.
This review showed that the domestic biodiesel production has
grown considerably, from 736 m3 in 2005, to 3.4 million cubic meters
in 2014. The arrival of the B7 blend, in November 2014, through
Government's Provisional Measure MP647, put the domestic production on a path to reduce the idleness rate of the industry, which is still
As the cost of renewable diesel at plant has been equated to that of
polluting diesel, the incentive to the production and consumption of
biodiesel in Brazil can represent economic and environmental advantages, as the country will be able to replace the imported fossil diesel by
the locally produced biodiesel.
However, as biodiesel has been inserted into the country's biofuel
market, it is recommended that public policies be designed to assure its
environmental sustainability, considering that recent studies have
suggested biodiesel from soybean oil and beef tallow can be potential
sources of environmental impacts, such as the ones related to land use
and land use change, especially if methanol is the choice for the
production of biodiesel. The adoption of the ethyl route is one of the
recommendations in order to mitigate the impacts.
Another consideration is in regards to the level of occupation of the
biodiesel plants; if continues to be low, the nancial health of the sector
can be compromised. And the lack of predictability in the attendance of
biofuel demand can be another possible setback.
The faith in the most prominent local feedstocks, castor and palm,
as the salvation for small farmers from the North and Northeast
regions has failed miserably as a source for biodiesel raw materials.
Much needs to be done in order to nd substitute raw materials that
are readily available and able to meet the demand for the biodiesel
production, besides the duet soybean-beef tallow. Many are the
barriers to overcome. The promotion of social inclusion should be
the government's number one priority for the less developed areas of
Brazil, as foreseen by the PNPB program at the time of its inception.

Every year more than 2 million people die in the world due to the
inhalation of ne particulate materials that are released in the air by
vehicles running fossil fuels, according to the World Health
Organization [49]. In addition, ne particulate matter alone can be
responsible for 8% of global lung cancer deaths [80] and the prevalence
of cancer cases are ascribed to air pollution [81].
Upon penetrating the lungs and into the bloodstream, these
particles cause heart disease, respiratory problems, lung cancer, among
other illnesses [82]. Studies carried out by the Laboratory of
Experimental Atmospheric Pollution, from the School of Medicine of
the University of So Paulo, in Brazil, suggest that a 10% reduction in
the level of air pollution in the city of So Paulo, between 2000 and
2020, would result in 250 thousand fewer medical visits which would
represent a savings of US$10 billion and would prevent the death of
114 thousand people [82].
Although biodiesel will never cover all the need for the transport
sector, [it] should represent an important basis for a secure and
sustainable supply [] (p. 746) [83].
6.2. Disadvantages
While biodiesel presents several advantages over petroleum diesel,
it also has unfavorable points which should be taken into consideration. As the presence of oxygen helps to reduce hydrocarbon and
carbon monoxide emissions, it also has the potential to increase the
presence of water in the biofuel, yielding to oxidative stability issues
[77]. Besides, another concern with biodiesel relates to the fact that at
very low temperatures its viscosity thickens, with the potential to
clogging the vehicle lters so, with clogged lters, the car will not
work. Also, as biodiesel plays a role as "solvent", wiping the dirt that is
stored inside the fuel tank, that feature can also clog the lter.
Finally, biodiesel has lower energy content, higher emissions of

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F.C. De Oliveira, S.T. Coelho

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We gratefully acknowledge the helpful tips and suggestions made by
Professor Oswaldo Lucon, from the Environmental Agency of So
Paulo State. We also thank Antonio Ventilii, from Aprobio, for his
technical expertise on biodiesel as well as for clarifying a couple of
questions and numbers, Marcelo Cop de Souza, from the Brazilian
Petroleum Agency, for helping us nd some useful data, and Adriano
Violante, from the University of So Paulo, for general suggestions.
This work has been supported by CAPES on the basis of grants for
postgraduate research. This work was also supported by FAPESP
through grant number 2012/51466-7 and grant number 2014/
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