European Company Eyes Cutting-Edge Bio-Energy Plant in Mindanao

ZAMBOANGA CITY — EUROPEAN Beauwal Group may set up in Mindanao a $600-million bioethanol plant using technology that will allow it to extract biofuel from food crops without compromising food security.

The fermentation technology will answer the food-versus-fuel debate by extracting fuel only from food waste, allowing the crop to still be used for food.

“If you have corn or sugarcane, you can use those for the food industry, but the waste… after the food component is taken away can be converted into ethanol,” Beauwal Chairman Adrien de Merode told PeaceWorks.

In a presentation, de Merode said the technology is cost-effective and would allow them to use waste and non-food materials such as feedstock for bioethanol production from a growing number of plant residues such as wood pulp, switch grass, wheat stalks and even marine algae.

“It has been tested and we are in close contact with several US companies which say we can use the corn or sugarcane for the food industry, and the waste can be transformed into ethanol,” de Merode said.

Biofuels – energy that comes from plants – have attracted much attention and investment because these can replace or supplement traditional and less-clean petroleum-based transportation fuels. Biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel can be used in existing vehicles with little or no modification to engines and fuel systems.

But biofuel feed stocks such as corn, sugarcane and soybeans are also key sources of food for millions of people. Biofuel critics say production of crops for bioenergy uses may also displace other food-related crops. The American Journal of Science recently came out with reports linking ethanol and biodiesel production to increased carbon dioxide emissions, destruction of forest and savanna habitats, and pollution.

The Beauwal Group through unit Beauwal Philippines is eyeing lands in Mindanao where it will build the ethanol plant within three years.

De Merode said the bio-ethanol plant would require agricultural output from more than 200,000 hectares. “At an average of three hectares per farmer, over 66,000 farmers will be provided livelihood in the growing of hybrid corn as the main source of raw material,” he said. The company will spend $600 million or roughly P27 billion in two to three years.

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