Biomass sector in Argentina is changing very fast. The inminent collapse of the  traditional energy sector started to allow the production of energy from biomass at commercial levels. Distances make just too expensive the collection of biomass residues and energy crops would be economically feasible in several regions.

The domestic energy supply in Argentina is mostly based on hydrocarbons: 51% comes from natural gas and 35%from oil and its derivatives. Studies carried out by the Government with FAO assistance showed a huge potential for biomass to energy projects in particular with strong feasibility for medium gasifiers; however, institutional, legal, economic, technical and sociocultural barriers must be overcome first.

Biomass in Argentina to increase value very fast

It is estimated today, that biomass will be competitive compared to fossil sources at a price of 70 U$D (american dollars)  per ODT (oven dried ton) or around 50 U$D when biomass has 30% moisture (in particular for gasifiers). This makes economically feasible several lignocellulosic energy crops. The challenge in Argentina is to produce ONLY in unused marginal areas with no food competitiveness. The opportunity, are millions of hectares in this condition and very close to an industrial sector that never stops its growing energy demand (even during worst crisis!).

Large scale in Argentina might allow several opportunities for biomass energy sector with sinergies between traditional uses-

Why a country with huge natural resources is not yet using them for heat and electricity?. The main reason is because of subsidies to fossil energy sustained with people taxes.Most politicians and experts in Argentina considered that solid biomass will never be feasible because of energy subsidies. Nevertheless, energy subsidies are not sustainable and natural gas shortages and huge imports are worrying several industries. Energy from biomass with extremely low costs and higher stability would be clearly an advantage for one of the most competitive agricultural countries in the world. Only Parana and Uruguay basins and the region of Rio de la Plata delta and its islands very close to Buenos Aires city, could offer hundreds of Megawatts only using residues and new plantations inb surplus lands.

Biomass and energy crops for biogas 

Biomass for biogas is 100% viable option in Argentina. Combinations with manure in dairy farms in the provinces of Santa Fe, Buenos Aires and Cordoba are expected to grow during the next decade.

Energy grasses combined with huge solid and liquid effluents from dairy farms represent a great opportunity. Several other agri-industries are also very interesting to valorize biomass residues to produce biogas.

 Read more on energy crops for biogas

Highest potential for bioenergy

Argentina, one of the countries with highest potentials for biomass to energy worldwide has a greatlatitude and surplus land,s. However it has not been developing biomass with cultivated species as energy crops and the collection of biomass residues is not enough to cover the demand with reasonable costs. Most companies located in Rosario Industrial Belt, have a huge demand and considerable risks for energy shortages in the near future.  

Argentinas has a wide variety of ecosystems and hundreds of millions of hectares in abandonment.

Residues often not available in regions with competitive grassland and agricultural lands (mainly soybean, corn, etc.) have always space for expansions in marginal areas. This is the case on Northern Santa Fe, Entre Rios province and several areas in Buenos Aires and Cordoba. Provinces in northern areas (Santiago del Estero, Chaco, Formosa and Misiones) have a great potential with several woody and herbaceous energy crops that have long record and experience in other countries. In Southern and colder areas, heating applications would be the chepaest source of heat if users switch to biomass heaters (boilers) and biomass gasifiers.

Argentine opportunity

In Argentina, biomass and energy crops are feasible considering most relevant sustainability criteria today discussed in Europe. Large scale projects with sinergies between food and energy sectors, but also the consideration of millions of hectares to reforest allow all a great potential integration of perennial agriculture in marginal lands

a) Energy is expensive and demand increases fast. Even  in periods of economic crisis, Argentina has always experienced energy consumption growth.

b) Large scale agricultural projects are viable. With many possible energy species and herbaceous or woody crops, green covers with great environmental services  are viable to produce biomass for energy. And this is true not only in areas where rotations of perennial grasslands and woody plantations could have synergies with a competitive commercial traditional agriculture. Huge areas with marginal lands are possible to be considered as 2/3 of the country is semiarid and millions of hectares are available for perennial agriculture and afforestation or reforestation.

c)  Huge biomass per capita. The country size (2.78 millions of km2) is comparable to countries with huge poopulation like India (area: 3.2 km2). However while India has 1.200 millions inhabitants, Argentina has only 42 millions. Natural resources per capita make Argentina an extremely rich country interms of bioeconomy.

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