Sustainable gas pathways for Brazil; from microcosm to macrocosm

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Department of Chemical Engineering


Both in Brazil and globally, gas is at a crossroads. On one hand it is abundant, has an increasing share in global energy supply, is relatively clean-burning and is often an economically competitive fuel. On the other hand the gas supply chain and its combustion emit carbon dioxide and methane, which lead to global climate change. Alongside this, gas production, distribution and use have non-trivial life cycle interactions with natural capital and ecosystem services. For gas to have a sustainable future role arguably the principal challenge is in enabling its continued production and use .

Brazil could greatly expand domestic gas production from two sources. First, it has the world's second largest bio-fuel industry (and is the largest exporter), and bio-ethanol production by-products can be used to produce decarbonised gas. Second, large natural gas reserves have recently been found in offshore deep water pre-salt. Yet Brazil faces complex challenges in making the most of its gas resource potential; key among these is a limited national distribution infrastructure, concerns over the environmental impacts of gas production and supply chain choices on unique ecosystems, and questions over the distribution of socio-economic benefits flowing from sugarcane-energy resource exploitation. There are also issues to be addressed to ensure that gas-related developments in Brazil continue to bolster social, as well as economic, objectives, and foster inclusive as well as environmentally-sound economic growth.

The key technical opportunities for gas in Brazil are twofold:
(1) The first is in the decarbonisation of gas, given that Brazil has a substantial bio-ethanol industry (worth US$33billion in value added annually), which produces vast quantities of bagasse and other wastes. These waste products can be used to produce biogas/biomethane. In 2015 Brazil produced 7Mt of bagasse, and this is projected to rise to 26Mt by 2030, which could produce up to 1.9bcm methane per year.
(2) The second technical opportunity is the use of significant pre-salt reserves (potentially combined with the bio-methane) in power generation to counter seasonal fluctuations in natural flow hydro electricity output. The technical challenges to capitalising on these opportunities are in technology performance and cost for low carbon gas production, creating a comprehensive infrastructure to support the distribution of gas, and determining the most beneficial use of the significant pre-salt offshore reserves.

This project will investigate these opportunities via an interdisciplinary approach, encompassing process engineering, socio-economics, ecosystem impacts, and energy systems modelling:
(1) Process engineering simulation and optimisation will be developed for sugarcane ethanol production, including investigation of how this process needs to be adapted in order to use the waste products (e.g. bagasse) to co-produce biogas and/or biomethane alongside the ethanol.
(2) Investigation of the socio-economic implications of bio-methane from bio-ethanol bioproducts, drawing on the engineering process characterisation, in order to identify the ways in which it can contribute to livelihoods, growth, and other development objectives.
(3) the ecological consequences of increased use of natural gas in Brazil will be considered. This will translate gas development scenarios into land use projections, and estimate the impact of the land use change on the carbon cycle, water quality and provisioning of drinking water to population centres.
(4) The project will culminate in the production of self-consistent quantitative scenarios of gas development in Brazil to 2050. These will be produced via a qualitative narrative scenario development followed by application of a state-of-the-art energy transition simulation modelling to provide quantitative estimates of the role of gas in Brazil.

Planned Impact

The impact of this project will be achieved via a managed programme of collaboration, exchange and engagement both within and between Brazil and the UK, and more broadly. Specific strategies to achieve impact are summarised below:

1) The headline output of this project is a concise and authoritative synthesis of the most promising pathways for gas in Brazil. This will consist of insights on the engineering, economic, environmental and social implications of gas in comparison with other energy system possibilities. Impact will be achieved with this via a report (task 4 WP7) publicised via SGI communications channels, the annual SGI/GIC research workshop, and briefings to policy makers, regulators, and industry stakeholders.

2) A key strength of this programme, and one which will help ensure that maximum impact is delivered, is its integration into two recently established world class research activities in Brazil and in the UK, namely the Gas Innovation Centre at University of Sao Paulo, and the Sustainable Gas Institute at Imperial College London. Both of these initiatives already provide strong bridge between Brazil and the UK, engage with large networks of gas and other industry and policy stakeholders, and host a range of events, including lectures, seminar series and researcher exchange, including an annual research workshop (see point below).

3) The SGI annual research workshop will be a primary mechanism used to reach stakeholders. It will present research outputs across the SGI and GIC, and invites participation from further afield. Researchers and Investigators on this project proposed will be invited to participate in this workshop, ensuring the integration of project and people in the gas research community.

4) The proposed research includes regular two-way exchange of researchers, early career researchers and senior researchers between the academic partners in Brazil and the UK, ensuring linking of UK and Brazilian activities and cross-fertilisation of research streams.

5) Publication of research papers in leading international journals, and presentations at leading academic and industry conferences will be a core mechanism of academic output, and will underpin broader stakeholder interactions, thereby ensuring credibility of outreach.

6) Full publication and disclosure of the MUSE modelling environment (WP7), which will be developed into an open access modelling tool for wide use by researchers, industry and policy makers.

7) A project advisory group will be formed comprising BG Group, BG Brazil, BP, EPE (energy planning authority in Brazil), Datagro (bio-energy consultancy in Brazil), Comgas (gas distribution infrastructure operator in Sao Paulo), and ANEEL (electricity system regulator in Brazil), NERC and FAPESP. This group will provide direct advice and guidance to the programme, and with a specific remit to support the translation of research outcomes into impact in their sectors.

8) The PIs in both the UK and Brazil will raise impact as a main agenda item at all four monthly management meetings, and will keep track of all impact activities and outcomes.
Description While key findings are at an early stage for this in-progress project, some significant progress and insights have been made. The Imperial research team has enhanced the Combined Gas and Electricity Networks model (CGEN) to; (a) Represent detailed characteristics of hydro power plant, and (b) implement a new temporal structure for modelling of operation and planning of combined gas and electricity systems. The enhanced model structure covers system balancing in 30min resolution while considering seasonal operation planning and multi-year investment / reinforcement of the gas and electricity infrastructure in Brazil. The preliminary modelling outputs will be produced by the end of April and will be shared with the partners in Brazil for feedback. The Imperial-USP team has also developed an initial version of the MUSE-Brazil model, which has been applied to understand gas demand outlook for the state of Parana in collaboration with Brazilian partners. Ultimately the completed model will be transferred to Brazilian partners. The Cardiff research team has delivered detailed spatial data of gas and electricity systems in Brazil. The Brazilian gas transmission network data including length and diameter of pipes, operating pressure, demand and supply nodes, and location of compressor stations have been collected from several sources. In addition, capacity of existing power stations of various types, as well as their commissioning dates, in different regions of Brazil were collected. Based on the collected data, a database has been created to provide required inputs to CGEN model. They have also developed and validated a Brazilian gas network model, which will be used in CGEN model. The UCL research team has produced results relating to Brazilian socio-economic impact, examining how transmission affects electricity planning across Brazilian regions. This finds a preference for local energy generation, particularly wind, cautioning against further investment in large-scale hydropower plants.
Exploitation Route 1) When completed, the MUSE-Brazil model will be made open source. This will enable our partner organisation in Brazil to use the model, and any other researcher to gain access to it and even potentially further enhance it. 2) The MUSE-Brazil model may also be applied to help understand energy transitions in Brazil. Of particular relevance to this project is assessment and potential for "gas for growth", which is a key government energy initiative that will liberalise state-controlled gas markets and fundamentally change the Brazilian energy system. MUSE-Brazil has already been used for a region in Brazil by government and electricity/gas system stakeholders.
Sectors Energy,Environment,Transport

Description This project is still in-progress, but already some fundings have been used for socio-economic benefit in Brazil. Specifically, findings on future gas demand in a Brazilian state have been used to inform ongoing gas infrastructure investment decision making for that state and beyond in collaboration with COPEL, COMPAGAS and Shell Brazil.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Energy
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

Description NERC Additional Funding
Amount £26,250 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N018656/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 04/2019
Description Shell Parana Gas Demand Outlook
Amount £22,000 (GBP)
Organisation Shell International Petroleum 
Department Shell UK Ltd
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 03/2018
Title MUSE-Brazil 
Description MUSE-Brazil in a fully-fledged energy systems model. It is an agent-based simulation of investors and consumers in each sector of the Brazilian energy system from present day until 2050. Partial equilibrium on the energy system is achieved via an iterative market clearly algorithm. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact MUSE-Brazil has been applied to provide a projection of gas demand in the state of Parana in Brazil. This work has been presented to Shell, COPEL (Parana electricity system operator) and COMPAGAS (Parana gas network operator) to inform their gas infrastructure investment decision making. 
Description Empresa de Pesquisa Energética - EPE - collaboration on data sharing 
Organisation Energy Research Company
PI Contribution The project research team has visited EPE and shared views on development of the Brazilian energy system, along with best practices for modelling energy system change.
Collaborator Contribution Crucial data has been provided by EPE to support consortium energy systems modelling activities.
Impact Outputs relating to this collaboration are improved formulations of the CGEN model, and initial implementation of the MUSE-Brazil model. It is a multi-disciplinary collaboration including engineering, economics and social science.
Start Year 2017
Description UFRJ modelling and data collaboration 
Organisation Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Department Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute of Postgraduate Studies and Research in Engineering (COPPE)
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The research team has visited UFRJ and has shared views on energy system change in Brazil, and shared best practice in energy systems modelling.
Collaborator Contribution Data has been provided to support energy systems modelling activity in the project.
Impact Primary outputs are better representation of the Brazilian energy system in models produced by the consortium.
Start Year 2017
Description USP 
Organisation University of Sao Paulo
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Visits to University of Sao Paulo to deliver research, develop network of contacts and explore further funding opportunities
Collaborator Contribution Provision of data and network of experts
Impact MUSE-Brazil model - 5-region energy system transition model for Brazil
Start Year 2016
Description Presentation of project outputs to Shell on future gas demand in Brazil 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A presentation was made to Shell Brazil on future gas demand in Brazil. This supports planning for infrastructure investment in Brazil in relation to gas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Presentation to Petrobras on Brazilian gas markets 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The purpose of this presentation was to outline initial finding from the project to the Gas Strategy team at Petrobras in Rio de Janeiro. It covered both modelling of the Brazilian energy system, and global demand for gas. Approximately 30 people attended the meeting.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Project presentation to Empresa de Pesquisa Energética (EPE - Brazilian government-funded energy planning group) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Approximately 60 people attended this talk in EPE in Rio de Janeiro. The audience was largely professional practitioners developing energy policy and planning assessments for Brazil, and therefore are a key stakeholder with regards to research outputs. The presentation has led to deeper collaboration and data sharing between Imperial College, EPE and USP.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017