We operate renewable energy businesses that complement our core business
BP currently has the largest operated renewables business among our oil and gas peers. Our activities are focused on biofuels and onshore wind.
Biofuels can be blended into traditional transport fuels without significant engine modifications or major changes to existing fuel delivery systems. Our biofuels business in Brazil produces ethanol and sugar from sugar cane, and electricity from sugar cane waste. Following the expansion of our Tropical mill in 2014, our three sites produced 795 million litres of ethanol equivalent (which includes ethanol and sugar) in 2015. This represents an increase of 47%.
We are also investing in the development of biobutanol, in conjunction with our partner, DuPont. Compared with other biofuels, biobutanol can be blended with fuels in higher proportions, and is easier to transport, store and manage. The sustainability of biofuels can vary greatly depending on the raw materials used and agricultural conditions. We plan our investments and run our business to address concerns related to food security, water, responsibility to the community and other sustainability impacts. Our Tropical mill is certified to Bonsucro, an independent standard for sustainable sugar cane production, and SA8000, the international standard for social accountability and human rights.
Biofuels (million litres of ethanol equivalent)
Food security and biodiversity
Brazilian sugar cane is one of the most land-efficient feedstocks for producing biofuels and other products. Less than 2% of the land used for crops or pasture in Brazil is for ethanol production. BP does not plant sugar cane in priority conservation areas, focusing instead on pastureland and areas previously designated for grain production. Around 20% of our sugar cane plantation is set aside to protect local biodiversity.
Greenhouse gas emissions
Sugar cane ethanol has life cycle greenhouse gas emissions that are 70% lower than conventional transport fuels. In addition, our mills burn bagasse - the fibre that remains after the sugar cane stalks have been crushed - to supply energy for the mills. We also export around 667 gigawatt hours of green power to the local grid. We estimate that as a result of our 2015 ethanol production, approximately 0.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂) was avoided, equal to 334,000 fewer European cars on the road for a year.
Sugar cane cultivation can potentially increase pressure on water resources. The Goiás region in Brazil where we operate is especially well suited to sugar cane agriculture because the rainy and dry seasons match the needs of the sugar cane’s growing cycle. The water intensity of our Brazilian biofuels operations averages around 13 kilograms of water per kilogram of sugar and ethanol, which compares favourably to that of many agricultural food crops within the region.
Working in the community
We work to understand both the potential impacts of our operations in Brazil and the needs of the local community. Our environmental and social programmes focus on areas such as road safety, sustainable sugar cane production and empowerment of local people. For example, we have taken steps to increase the number of women in our agricultural workforce. Our activities include education and training in sugar cane cultivation as well as efforts to open up opportunities for local women in this predominantly male occupation. We are seeing positive results, with 325 female agricultural workers in 2015 (2014 216, 2013 78). This brings women’s participation up from 2.2% of our agricultural workforce to 6.8% in two years.
Women in the workplace - increasing representation in Brazil
We are working with the communities surrounding our sugar cane ethanol mills in Brazil to help women overcome the challenges of joining the workforce. Read more...
BP holds interests in 16 onshore wind farms in the US. Our net generating capacity from this portfolio, based on our financial stake, is 1,556 megawatts of electricity. This is enough to power all the homes in a city the size of Dallas. We calculate that our wind activities helped avoid around 2.7 million tonnes of CO₂ in 2015. BP also runs two wind farms on our refinery sites in the Netherlands, operating on a much smaller scale, with 32 megawatts of generating capacity, avoiding around 20,000 tons of CO₂ emissions. In our US operations, BP follows US Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines, designed to help minimize impacts of wind farms on wildlife and their habitats. We seek to reduce hazards to wildlife that come into contact with our wind turbines. For example, we have slowed the movement of the turbine blades at night during peak bat-migration season. This blade feathering reduces bat mortality by as much as 30%.