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Mexico Biofuels Activities

Outline map of Mexico.

Here you'll find information about Mexico's work in biofuels. Learn more about its:

Background

Mexico sees biofuels as an opportunity to diversify its energy portfolio (more than 80% of the domestic energy supply comes from fossil fuels) and promote the development of rural communities. However, no specific policy is in place to stimulate the biofuels industry.

Production

Currently, Mexico does not produce fuel ethanol. However, ethyl alcohol has been produced for the chemical, alcoholic beverage, and pharmaceutical industries for many years. There are 25-30 sugarcane mills in Mexico that have attached distilleries, but very few are operating and produce about 60 million-80 million liters a year. At full capacity and efficiency, it is estimated that total production capacity for ethanol is currently almost 170 million liters annually (USDA 2007).

Biodiesel production in Mexico is limited to a few small-scale plants with a total production of approximately 3,300 tonnes per year (USDA 2007).

Feedstock

There are various crops grown in Mexico that could be used as feedstock for ethanol production, including sorghum (grain), corn, wheat, cassava, sugarcane, and sugar beet. However, sugarcane is considered the most feasible feedstock due to the opportunity for co-locating ethanol refineries with existing sugar mills. Figure 1 below illustrates proposed location for fuel ethanol plants and sugarcane producing areas.

Figure 1. Proposed Fuel Ethanol Refineries and Sugarcane Producing Areas (SENER 2007)

A map showing proposed fuel ethanol refineries and sugarcane producing areas in Mexico. Key locations include Salamanca, Cadereyta, Madero, Tula, Minatitian, and Salina Cruz. If you need more information regarding the data in this map, please contact Anelia Milbrandt at anelia_milbrandt@nrel.gov.

Sugarcane and sugar beets would need less than 1 million hectare (ha) to reach the production required to displace 10% of gasoline consumption. This seems to be within the possibilities today, because agriculture uses only 21.8 million ha out of the 30 million ha "available" area for cultivation (2003 statistics). Additionally, pasture land (27.7 million ha) in some regions (South-Southeast) could be partially used to grow these crops. Corn would also be in this range, while cassava and sorghum would require much larger areas (SENER-BID-GTZ 2006).

Biodiesel in Mexico is produced from animal fat and used cooking oil. Other feedstock considered by the industry includes palm oil, sunflower, safflower, canola, and soybean. Figure 2 below shows areas suitable for growing these crops. Mexico has also expressed interest in jatropha, but has not developed any action plan. Estimates by SENER show that there are more than 2 million ha available for palm oil production (currently 15,000 ha), and approximately 1 million ha available for jatropha cultivation.

Figure 2. Suitable Areas for Biodiesel Feedstock Production (SENER 2007)

A map showing proposed fuel ethanol refineries and sugarcane producing areas in Mexico. Safflower production is big on the west side, sunflowers are primarily in the center, soybeans are big on the east side, and oil palm is on the southern tip. If you need more information regarding the data in this map, please contact Anelia Milbrandt at anelia_milbrandt@nrel.gov.

Economics

The following charts show specific economic statistics for the member economy.

EthanolUS$/liter
From sorghum0.15
From corn/wheat0.17
From sugarcane/sugar beet0.20
From cassava0.25

Source: SENER-BID-GTZ 2006

BiodieselUS$/liter
From jatropha0.53
From canola0.61
From sunflower0.63
From used cooking oil/tallow0.73

Source: SENER-BID-GTZ 2006

Biofuels in Use

Biofuels currently are not used by the transportation sector in Mexico.

Infrastructure and Vehicles

PEMEX, the national oil company, would be the sole buyer of biofuel products, thus it would be the responsibility of PEMEX to make necessary upgrades to its own refining, storage, and distribution systems (USDA 2007). It would cost $77M-120M to convert Mexico's existing gasoline storage and distribution terminals to allow for the blending of ethanol (F.O. Licht 2007)

Trade

Mexico exports crude oil, but imports some gasoline and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). Thus, if economically competitive, ethanol could save imports and stretch gasoline resources — and postpone the need to invest in additional refining capacity to produce gasoline for the domestic market. An alternative approach would be to produce ethanol for export, especially to the United States. Mexico is favorably placed with the United States, geographically and trade wise, as a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (SENER-BID-GTZ, 2006).

Policy

The Biofuels Promotion and Development Law was approved by the Mexican Congress on April 26, 2007. Although the law does not contain any mandates or specific goals, it is seen as a "first step" toward developing a biofuels industry in the member economy. It also had broad support from the agricultural community. However, a few months later, the bill was vetoed by the President Felipe Calderón on the grounds that it puts too much emphasis on corn and sugarcane production. According to Calderón, the law doesn't give enough attention to new technologies such as algae and cellulosic biomass that could be more sustainable sources of biofuels. A new bill that includes the president's recommendations is in a development stage.

Some of the following documents are available as Adobe Acrobat PDFs. Download Adobe Reader.

Sources

  1. Potenciales y Viabilidad del Uso de Bioetanol y Biodiesel para el Transporte en México (SENER-BID-GTZ), 2006 (PDF 5.8 MB)
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture, GAIN Report, 2007 (PDF 182 KB)
  3. Secretaria de Energia (SENER), September 2007
  4. Biofuels Digest, February 2008
  5. F.O. Licht World Ethanol and Biofuels Report, August 2007