Image Credits Photo: Álbori Ribeiro/Disclosure Grupo Potencial
4 minutes read

Investment of R$1.7 billion to build the largest biodiesel facility in Brazil

Potential, a group from Paraná, grows in biodiesel and invests R$ 1.7 billion to build the largest factory for crushing soybeans;

The energy transition is the focus of the family holding’s strategy, which had revenues of R$10 billion in 2023 The Brazilian family company Grupo Potencial is ready to increase sales in 2024 in the wake of the increase in the mixture of biodiesel in diesel, and is taking steps towards verticalization , with the construction of a soybean processing plant – the largest biodiesel factory in the country – to supply the biofuel plant . Founded in 1994, in Paraná, with a focus on fuel distribution , the group is expanding investments to continue to grow in the biodiesel market and, as a bonus, enter the animal feed segment. With investments of R$ 1.7 billion , the family holding has already started to build a soybean processing factory for the production of oil and bran in the municipality of Lapa , 70 kilometers from Curitiba, and in the next few years the agricultural aspect, concentrated at Potencial Biodiesel, it tends to become its flagship product. Potencial already operates the largest biodiesel plant in Brazil, with a capacity of 900 million liters per year.

The group, which had revenues of around R$10 billion in 2023, is also made up of the arms Potencial Petróleo, Jeta Combustíveis, BWI Trading and BWT Transportes . None of them has grown as much as the biodiesel division, created in 2012 and which already represented revenue of R$4.5 billion last year. With the new soybean crusher, which is expected to come into operation in early 2026, the pace of progress on this front tends to be accelerated . “We will further increase our role in the energy transition process,” said Adriana Hammerschmidt, vice-president of the ESG, governance and legal areas at Potencial, daughter of founder Arnoldo Hammerschmidt.

According to Robson Rodrigues Antunes, general manager of the group’s Industrial Division, the earthworks in the area that will receive the crusher have been completed. The factory will start operating with the capacity to process 3.5 thousand tons of soybeans per day, but will already be prepared to reach 7 thousand. When this happens, the soybean oil produced will cover 60% of Potencial Biodiesel’s demand, which will continue to purchase the remainder of its raw material needs on the market. The bran will be destined mainly for the poultry and swine industry.

This year, the Brazilian government increased the mandatory blend of biofuel in diesel from 12% to 14% and set March 2025 as the deadline to increase it to 15%. With the growth in demand for cleaner fuels, the company’s vice-president Carlos Hammerschmidt predicts that the group’s total sales will reach 12 billion reais in 2024, above the 10 billion reais estimated for 2023. Currently, vegetable oils represent 75% of the raw materials used by the division for the production of biofuel – the group is linked to the Social Fuel Seal Program, of the Ministry of Agriculture, and its acquisitions benefit 25 thousand family farmers, 2.3 thousand of which are in the Northeast. Used cooking oil and animal fats account for 25%, and a synthetic oil made from chemical recombination with refined glycerin makes up 100%.  “This synthetic oil, obtained through a process called glycerolysis, is one of our differentiators.

We started producing it in 2020”, stated Antunes. 100 tons of synthetic oil are processed per day, while the collection of used cooking oil reaches 600 thousand liters per month. “This action, which we developed in partnership with restaurants, is very important. One liter of cooking oil can contaminate 25 thousand liters of water”, stated Adriana, remembering that the group has also increased investments in other sustainable practices such as water reuse. Grupo Potencial’s biodiesel is produced in two plants located in Lapa. The first, which began operating in January 2013, after initial investments of R$110 million and three expansions, which absorbed another R$135 million, currently manufactures 1 million liters per day. The second, mirroring the first, processes 1.5 million liters daily. In addition, the complex has a glycerin refinery with a capacity of 150 tons per day, sold to pharmaceutical, food and chemical industries, among others. According to Antunes, 98% of glycerin is exported. The soybean crusher will be built at the Grupo Potencial Industrial Complex, in Lapa, next to the company’s biodiesel plant, which is the largest in Brazil and the third largest in the world. The process of earthmoving the land has already begun and construction of the plant is expected to begin in the coming months.

This is the group’s biggest investment in the coming years, which is projected to become one of the world leaders in the crushing sector. The plant will have the capacity to process around 3,500 tons of soybeans per day, or 1.15 million tons per year from 2025. Two silos will be built to store soybeans, with a capacity of 150 thousand tons each, and another silo, with a capacity of 100 thousand tons, to store bran, one of the residues from oil extraction, which can be used in the production of feed and other products and will be sold in the domestic and foreign markets.

The project also foresees the construction of a railway terminal to connect the industrial plant with the railway line that goes to the Port of Paranaguá.

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