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Angola's 'Sweet Success'

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Surrounded by vast sugar cane fields, with the mysterious Pungo Andongo rocks looming in the background, lies the bright red sugar mill run by the Angola Bioenergy Company (Biocom). Its ambitions are as impressive as its location. 
Biocom, a partnership between Sonangol, Damer and Odebrecht, is currently Angola’s only sugar and ethanol-producing company. Created in 2006, it covers 30,000 hectares in Cacuso, Malange, 1,450 hectares of which are already covered with sugarcane. In the near future, Biocom’s sugarcane will cover 25,000 hectares. Biocom is set to produce a staggering 250,000 tonnes of sugar when the project reaches its maturity. “Angola’s annual market demand exceeds 400,000 tonnes per year,” says a Biocom director during a tour of the plantation and factory, which is still being completed.

The sugar production process takes place in giant tanks immediately in front of Biocom’s storage sheds. “Sugar cane has a lifespan of four to five years,” he says. “In the second phase, Biocom will double the production to 500,000 tons of sugar a year." 


At present, all of Angola’s sugar is currently imported, and demand is increasing due to population growth. According to Biocom, per capita demand in Angola will also rise. It is 12 kilos per person per year now, compared with 50 kilos per person per year in Brazil. As Angola is an emerging economy, per capita demand is expected to soon reach 30 or 40 kilos per year.

Around 70% of Biocom’s sugar cane is turned into sugar. The remaining 30% is used for ethanol and the production of electricity. Electric power is produced by burning sugar cane waste. The vapour released during the process is channelled into a high-pressure turbine.

The energy that is generated as a result can light up a city of up to 400,000 people, Biocom says. Just 40 per cent of Biocom’s energy produced next year will meet Malange’s demand, which means 60 per cent can be sent to the rest of Angola. This percentage will gradually increase.

When the project reaches its maturity, Biocom will be capable of producing 250,000 liters of ethanol a day, which may be used as fuel and also to blend with petrol and diesel. Ethanol has never been used as a fuel before in Angola but is well-established in Brazil, where over 85 per cent of new cars can run on either ethanol or petrol or a combination of the two. (Sonangol Universo Magazine)

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