Iniciativa Anfacer + Sustentável

Argus Media traz entrevista com Benjamin Ferreira Neto, Presidente do Conselho de Administração da Anfacer

Em entrevista à Argus Media, organização de mídia independente sediada em Londres, que possui 27 escritórios nos principais centros de produção e comercialização de commodities do mundo, Benjamin Ferreira Neto, Presidente do Conselho de Administração da Anfacer, abordou questões dos contratos de gás natural, a missão "Energias do Futuro" à Dinamarca e Espanha, a busca por inovações tecnológicas para o setor e os desafios da transição para os biocombustíveis.

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Q&A: Brazil’s ceramists eye gas contracts, biogas

Brazilian ceramic producers are looking into opportunities in biogas and bilateral natural gas contracts, but want to trim costs and renegotiate penalties related to take-or-pay or pipeline capacity reserve commitments with domestic gas distributors. Argus spoke to Benjamin Ferreira Neto, administrative board president for the Brazilian association of manufacturers of ceramic tiles, sanitary ware and related products (Anfacer). Edited highlights follow.

Anfacer recently visited Denmark and Spain to search for new energy technologies. Can you bring some of the innovations to the ceramic sector to Brazil?

The ceramic industry's aim is to increase sustainability. We want to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, so we visited hydrogen and other plants to learn more about those technologies.

Brazil is usually one step behind the latest energy developments, but understanding what is going on in the world can lead Anfacer to help establishing public policies and laws that take our country in that direction, as was the case in the new gas market.

Are these new technologies ready to be implemented in Brazil?

We are nowhere close to using hydrogen as fuel. Some Brazilian industries may be close to using hydrogen to convert petrochemical products, like in green fertilizer production, but the shift from other fuels to hydrogen is a point of no-return. It must be done cautiously, without rush. If a transition is not well-paved, it can lead to logistical chaos.

Will the ceramic industry enter the natural gas bilateral contract market?

Yes, we are considering this possibility and in adopting biomethane as an alternative to distributor's gas, since there is an abundance of residues from Brazil's sugarcane industry.

First, Anfacer thinks our associates will be partially free consumers, meaning we would buy some gas from a local distributor and the remaining gas volumes directly from gas producers in bilateral contracts. This would require managing more than one supplier at a time, since gas supply proposals are interruptible and ceramic factories need firm gas intake.

We also wonder if the country has enough infrastructure to sign bilateral contracts. Some distributors could not shift away from Petrobras and signed new contracts with other producers, which leads us to believe it is not just a matter of insufficient gas suppliers, but of inadequate infrastructure.

State regulations, which differ in every state and have multiple levels of complexity, are also an issue. We need to feel the difficulties in the bilateral contract market before we choose to totally end contracts with distributors.

This makes us look at biogas as an opportunity, since it has potential to be produced in abundance in Brazil.

How can the ceramic sector approach the biogas market?

To reduce the margin for errors, Anfacer wants to build a pilot project to procure biogas in a pool, in which companies would buy biogas as a group and share portions of it.

In Ceara state, one company in our industry started buying biomethane in a test contract. There were some difficulties, but they learned a lot from the experience.

Is the ceramics industry willing to pay a price premium for biomethane? 
Our sector has not taken advantage of biomethane's green attribute yet. We are discussing it and we understand it can be great for our export products.

But we do not see its value yet and it is not clear how it can generate value for our products, which are already very green. But if we can decarbonize our oven's burning process, we can broaden our green footprint.

Overall, we still do not know the value of this green attribute for biomethane and we are researching and discussing I-RECs, CBios and so on.

The majority of Anfacer's associates are connected to the Comgas gas distributor, in Sao Paulo state. The company will renew all contracts with its industrial consumers before the end of the year. How is the negotiation advancing?

The previous contract renewal negotiation was very tough, as it was difficult to lower penalties. We understood that Petrobras, the gas supplier for the distributor at that time, also had very high penalties for the distributors.

The new contracts are very rigid on penalties. We warned the distributors this would be a problem.

The previous contract renewal came when productivity was high, so costly penalties were not a concern. But raw material, packaging and machinery components' prices have increased in the global market, which forced the ceramics market to realign its prices. As a result, we expect industrial activity to fall in the second half of 2022.

Also, high penalties are beginning to be a problem as our stocks increase.

By Flavia Pierry


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