Ex-Im Bank funds Brazil biogas project

By Anna Simet | June 07, 2012

The Export-Import Bank of the U.S. has loaned $48.6 million to a Brazilian biogas project, marking the bank’s first financing transaction for biogas reclamation and development. 

The biogas plant will be located at the Jardim Gramacho landfill near Rio De Janeiro, one of the world’s largest solid waste landfills. The landfill was featured in internationally acclaimed documentary “Waste Land,” which won an Academy Award in 2011. 

The loan borrower, Gas Verde S.A., is the project owner and will operate the plant, which will capture and treat an estimated 20,000 normal cubic meters per hour (nM3 /hr) of raw landfill gas to produce 9,000 nM3/hr of fuel-grade biomethane gas. The biomethane will be sold under Newport Beach, Calif.-based FirmGreen’s trademark, and transmitted by pipeline to a nearby refinery owned and operated by Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil-and-gas company.

FirmGreen and its subcontracted companies supplied proprietary biogas cleaning equipment run by FirmGreen’s VerdeControls operating software, and other related services. Guild Associates Inc., an engineering firm in Dublin, Ohio, is serving as a major subcontractor. The company fabricated the specialized gas cleaning equipment and is also assisting during the start-up of the biogas plant.

The loan is for a period of 12 years, which the bank described as vital because long-term financing for renewable-energy projects is limited in Brazil. “The U.S. exporter, FirmGreen, also faced competition from European companies backed by their governments’ export-credit agencies,” Ex-Im stated with the loan announcement. 

The project is estimated to create a significant amount of jobs in the U.S. and Brazil. FirmGreen estimates it has directly generated 165 new jobs at its facilities and at other companies in seven states, and has supported jobs for FirmGreen and other U.S.-based employees in Brazil providing construction management services.

The project is also expected to have significant environmental benefits, as biogas from the Novo Gramacho plant will directly replace approximately 10 percent of the natural gas that is currently consumed at the Petrobras refinery. Total greenhouse-gas reductions associated with this project are estimated to be 1.4 million metric tons annually, the equivalent of eliminating the consumption of 160 million gallons of gasoline each year.

Ex-Im Bank said supporting U.S. renewable energy and other environmentally beneficial exports to international markets is one of its special initiatives. In fiscal year 2011, the bank authorized a record $889 million to support more than $1.3 billion of U.S. exports of environmentally beneficial goods and services, and over 81 percent of those authorizations supported exports related to renewable energy production.