Bioethanol: paradox France Brazil

Complete study: France-Brazil energy paradox linked to alcohol and distillation.

Keywords: alcohol, history, still, distillation, social role, biofuels, oil, nuclear

By Armand Legay, DEA 2001 / 2002, Department Sociology University of Rouen.

Thesis Director: François Aballea
Thesis Tutor: Jean-Louis Le Goff

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Summary of this work

1) Problematic

Why France, while it had a historic technological advance in the production of distilled alcohol, resulting from its alcohol-producing cultural matrix, has not developed its bioethanol or national fuel sector. Why has it developed it in Brazil, abroad and made an energy break between this sector, oil and nuclear power when common development was politically possible?

2) Assumptions

  • Political, cultural and economic factors did not favor the development of alcohol fuel before and after the 14-18 war.
  • National fuel is a political outlet against the hygienist and prohibitionist currents
  • The development of this fuel was not done here but, in particular in Brazil, although France is the first alcohol producing country.
  • c) Methodology used

  • Socio-historical base
  • Documentation on distillation, oil and nuclear art
  • CNAM, RATP, ADER archives ...
  • Interviews with stakeholders: Chamber of Agriculture, communities, industrial group (Téréos), decision-makers.
  • Equivalence methodology
  • Detailed Summary

    Chapter 1: France, a paradigm of modernist evolution

    - Brief reminder of the history of distillation in France
    - Example of the combination of experiences, inventors and innovations
    - Alcohol as a raw material in France and reasons for its abandonment
    - From alcohol chemistry to the Fives-Lille and Rhône Poulenc groups
    - Internal and external transfers of the Fives-Lille and Rhones Poulen groups

    Chapter 2: The Brazil paradigm of original development.

    - Short historical and anthropological analysis
    - The reasons for choosing alcohol fuel in 1973
    - The invention of Jean Pierre Chambrin
    - The intervention of French groups in the international alcohol paradigm
    - Return of alcohol, renewable energy?

    You will also find in appendix 2 interesting information (including some letters from CNAM) about Jean Chambrin's procedure.

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    Summary and author's analysis of this work

    My starting choice for this thesis was first to study the Alcohol, petroleum, nuclear and technology transfer Paradoxes.

    Then after reflection with my teachers and during lessons, I managed to reduce my problem to more modesty in its statement. I started from a distinction of industrial alcohol in France and Brazil.

    For my second work, I therefore arrived at the France-Brazil alcohol paradox born from an interrogation on the large number of vehicles, 14 million, which operate on alcohol in Brazil and why we talk so little about this operating principle in France. , alcohol-producing country?

    Another question comes from the fact of two inventors who both innovated in Seine maritime, one in the 19th century his invention was expatriated to England, while at the other, in the 20th century, he himself expatriated in Brazil. They are Philippe Lebon and Jean Pierre Chambrin.

    The first part of this thesis, through the introduction, the problematic, the object of the study, the hypotheses, the methodology and the scenario deals with the theoretical diagram and the mesh of the work.

    My problematic is "Why innovations that form paradigms are not always based on industrial, scientific, technical traditions and how innovations related to distillation are based on technology production processes internally and externally, taking into account traditions industrial.? " 

    In the first chapter, I attempt to analyze the content of the French alcohol group and its socio-cultural place in our economy.
    This short analysis situates the significant role of alcohol in our country.

    Then, I show, through the succinct history of distillation in France, all the achievements and investment made by French companies in the art and technique of distillation.
    All these techniques come from an ancestral experience on the distillation of wine. It is shown by an example (a drinking alcohol distillery) that this art is at the basis of a particular technical culture included in our art of life.

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    After this example, my research is oriented in time, on inventors who become innovators by creating new industries at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th which, by accumulating experiences and know-how, guide their contemporaries. A convincing example is that of Philippe Lebon.

    It is by imitation that they use distillation techniques to achieve raw material energy: industrial ethanol from agriculture and beet in particular.
    This fuel alcohol is predominant in our economy until after the war of 39-45.

    An analysis of socio-cultural and political reasons (economic, electoral and hygienic) over time is made in this regard to understand the reasons for the centrality of alcohol in technicality and in our economy from the 19th century until the 1950s. and the passage of these gains towards petrochemicals.

    In these different historical paragraphs, I also show the issues of economic and political actors and the links that are being built to arrive at the raw material alcohol which will be legalized by the law of February 28, 1923 on alcohol fuel.

    From this raw material that is ethanol, the basics of applied and organic chemistry come from with scientists like Berthelot and Pasteur.

    Actors in industrial alcohol production will innovate by using certain scientific discoveries from the chemistry of alcohol to develop.

    A particular example of adaptation to this principle is the Melle plant in Charente Poitou, now part of the Rhône Poulenc group.

    From this industrial acceleration, end of the 19ème beginning of the 20ème century will arise two economic entities: the groups Rhône Poulenc and Fives Lille. I make the parallelism between these two industrial groups

    From organic diagrams is located in time their filiation.

    An empirical interpretation is made to show all the technological capacities and the rationalization of our industry in this field of industrial alcohol and the absence of exploitation of these gains on our soil.

    The duality of manufacturing of these two distinct groups is shown, one towards chemistry, the other towards boiler making with the participation of a common ancestor.
    Technological transfers in these two groups are made internally (by descent, absorption, participation) and externally (through contracts, commercial agreements, joint venture, alliance).

    This research for internal and external transfer is devoted in particular to the case of Brazil.

    It is on these transfers to Brazil that the second and final chapter is oriented. It begins with a short introduction showing the current economic situation in this country.

    A minimum historical and anthropological analysis follows to define the aspects and the links which led to a "new civilization which is mixed by a civilization specific to the Amerindians, their values ​​perceptible through their languages ​​and cultures and the civilization specific to the descendants. Africans deported by slave traders to Brazil; who, despite their slave status, have persisted in retaining the essentials of Negro-African values ​​by creating this new civilization ”.

    This analysis leads to the contemporary era and the historical and cultural link is also a plant, sugar cane, its sugar production and its transformation into alcohol which, unlike the vine in our civilization, has not led to any loss. economic and political alcohol denials.

    Previously, a photograph of Brazilian industry is given, based on documentary and book research, showing the weight of Brazilian industry in comparison with the alcohol program in Brazil, despite the discovery in the North-East of significant oil deposits.

    Then I give the socio-economic reasons for the choice of the 1974 “Proalcool” plan, its relaunch in recent years and its involvement today.

    The project is not new, already in 1932 under President Vargas, it is the Melle plant that I mentioned earlier, which had the exclusive right, by its dehydration process, to manufacture alcohol fuel in Brazil.

    An analysis of the 1974 alcohol program follows, then the reasons for its renewal are given, which are employment, energy independence and, in addition, in 1997, the fight against climate deterioration.

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    The “Proalcool II plan is now based on data from the international market, its agricultural policy, the maintenance of the world price of sugar and against hydrocarbon pollution.
    A poll shows that Brazilians prefer alcohol cars.

    The communication of other documents shows that the production of sugar and alcohol in this country brings more positive effects than negative effects in terms of pollution.
    Indeed, Brazil is still seeking to increasingly reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in its agriculture.

    During this alcohol program in 1974, the Brazilian government called on an engineer from Rouen, Mr. Jean Pierre Chambrin, for his patents for a water-alcohol carburizing process for automobile engines with hydrogen production according to the inventor.
    I was not sure at the start of this study that Mr. Chambrin had participated in the alcohol program in Brazil.

    Today, on the contrary, I think that there is a great chance that it is the truth. After an investigation in different directions to obtain information on this inventor, it is through the Secretary of the National Union of Agricultural Alcohol Producers, Mr. Jean Pierre Leroudier that I would have the most information; the latter having met Jean Pierre Chambrin several times.

    In the paragraph on this inventor, I describe his invention, the tests he carried out in France with the Center for Study and Prevention which still exists in Paris. He was not an eccentric.
    He was a member of the company of automotive engineers and expert mechanic near the courts of Rouen; what journalists have, so to speak, passed over in silence.

    With his invention, I make a comparison with other invention which starts from the same principle as the Pentone processor of the same name as the inventor. Then I make an extrapolation with the Fuel cell which also starts from a process of separating water into molecules of oxygen and hydrogen with bio ethanol as fuel, which would be the best fuel.

    By quoting Tarde, I show that in these processes there is filiation and accumulation of knowledge which will be imitated over time. I end this paragraph by making a comparison, despite the 200 years that separate them, between the two inventors, Philippe Lebon and Jean Pierre Chambrin.

    What the latter could not do in France, from 1977, he will do in Brazil, similar to industrial groups that set up in Brazil.
    Indeed, to complete the alcohol program, the government of Brazil allows French groups to invest for their expertise in this area.

    Technology transfers are made either by commercial agreements or by the affiliation of groups established in this country for a long time, such as the Rhône Poulenc group with its subsidiary Rhodia.

    Other entities in many fields are investing in it at the moment such as Beghin Say or the Union coopératives des Sucreries Distilleries Agricoles (USDA).

    A significant investment is made by the USDA and by Béghin Say of the Edison group, controlled by EDF and Fiat, in the buyout of positions in Brazil.
    The paragraph on “the intervention of French groups in the Brazilian paradigm” takes these two groups as an example.

    The first is therefore Béghin Say, who after having invested in France and in Europe in various fields of alcohol, food and sugar, making disposals, takes control, in July 2001, of Açurar Guarani, a Brazilian group of sugar distilleries in which 85% of the crushing of the cane goes to the manufacture of sugar.

    Acurar Guarani's turnover is 130 million Euros. This game of sales and purchases is part of a redistribution of the cards on the global sugar market.

    The second example is the USDA group whose turnover is 630M €. In 2000, With COSAN, the first Brazilian sugar group and CA $ 450M, the Franco-Brazilian Company of Sugars and Alcohols, the FBA, was created. The new company has plenty to do in terms of absorption and transfer since 300 Brazilian distilleries are to be modernized.

    From these two examples, Brazil being the locomotive of bio ethanol production in the world, i.e. 46% of the market, we can see the need for this sector to come together through new associations to conquer the market. global.

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    This is how the USDA made an offer to buy Béghin Say in January 2002, supported by the beet growers who provide the raw material for Béghin Say, growers who therefore agree, I think, to become cooperators. .

    The deadline for these negotiations was August 2, 2002. It has been pushed back to September 30, 02 and the latest information I have from the USDA is that these negotiations are still ongoing and decisions are moving in the direction. the planned takeover of Béghin Say.

    All these negotiations show that we are probably heading towards a global development of bioethanol in the coming years. In this regard, I took note of the information that the Cristal Union group had a major project to build a distillery in France.

    Cooperating beet growers have an influence on this market; they are close to the climatic changes of recent years.

    Indeed, these planters can intervene when they are members of a cooperative, taking the example of the Sucrerie Distilleries des Haut de France: one man, one voice instead of one share, one voice; which marks all the difference in the decisions taken by the majority of votes and not actions as in a capitalist limited company.

    I then extrapolate to alcohol, a renewable energy, always starting from the fact that Brazil is the world leader in fuel alcohol and that it is therefore at the head of innovation in the art of distillation.

    It has become so by a random process of global economic games.
    From its achievements, the Brazilian government offers on the international scene its technological experience of Proalcool I and Proalcool II programs.

    Thus Brazil can help us through a return of transfers to develop our industrial alcoholic fabric, hoping that it can be mixed with that of petroleum.
    I also suppose that, despite the cultural weight of our vineyard civilization and our trademark: France, its wine and its spirits, this is possible!
    To conclude temporarily, I conclude on a statement of assumptions made.

    If the first hypothesis on transfers turns out to be close to reality in certain aspects of a paradigm transfer to another country, Brazil, it is moving away from the reality of the facts. It is even outdated. Indeed, France having slowed down the development of its industrial alcoholic fabric, has helped to develop that of Brazil and it is from this country that a transfer is made.

    The ignored facts contained in this study made me think of a paradox. After extrapolation, this is not a paradox, but a desire for French companies that have chosen Brazil as a land of experience.

    The second hypothesis on know-how turns out to be closer to reality in the sense that there is an accumulation of know-how and innovations coming from the knowledge acquired from a genealogy of inventors, but also that cultural, economic and political aspects can challenge these inventions or innovations.

    For the third hypothesis, which postulates that there is no innovation without internal transfers and external application and that companies may have an interest in developing experimentally externally in a country like Brazil, this one is also brings closer to reality as defined in this memoir.

    It remains now to complete this introductory study by deepening the different parameters of this theoretical work and by field approaches that could be:

    - the penetration of French industries in Brazil around sugar and Bioethanol,

    - The refinement of the technological contributions of the Proalcool plans,

    The evolution of the living conditions of the workforce since the first Alcohol plan in 1975

    - Brazil's place in the development of renewable energies and bio ethanol in particular. since 1974 and the summits on the environment
    - "France-Brazil" cooperation actions on the rise?

    - The French distillation apparatus, prospective and estimation of its development by new production units and the social, environmental and economic consequences of its use at 100%.

    - In France and Brazil: oil / alcohol ratios, comparison, distinction. Possible evolutions of their reports. What they can bring to each other.

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