Kibawe's bio-ethanol plant: waiting for investors

VALENCIA CITY (MindaNews/ 28 November) -  Have investors backed out of the proposed bioethanol plant project in Kibawe town in southern
Bukdinon? The plant was supposed to have been a showcase of  Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri’s advocacy for biodiesel,  a clean, alternative fuel that comes from 100% renewable resources.

Mario Marasigan, director of the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Management Bureau and representative of the National Biofuels Board wouldn’t comment on the question, saying it is a private sector issue.

Marasigan on Wednesday (Nov. 24) told the Mindanao Area Consultation for the implementation of the 10-percent blend bio-ethanol under
Republic Act 8479 or the Biofuels Act, that they submitted feasibility studies and the project was feasible “but there were other parameters
(concerning the investors).”

Bronzeoak Philippines, a subsidiary of Bronzeoak Ltd of the UK, announced in 2009 that they were building two power plants to power their bioethanol distillery in Bukidnon and Tarlac. According to the announcement posted in www.alternat1ve.com, both projects were expected to cost about $100 million (around P4.4 billion) and will deliver 15MW of power each.

The posted material said the power plants would be located in Kibawe, Bukidnon and in Capas, Tarlac. Construction was expected to begin by the middle of 2010. The Kibawe plant will reportedly have a capacity of 45 million liters a year, and is expected to cost P4 billion,” according to
www.thebioenergysite.com.

Albert Alonzo of the Office of Senator Zubiri told MindaNews the project is still there but with a new investor. He admitted that the high price of sugar has pushed the project to the sidelines for the meantime.

“But we are waiting for the right time to proceed with it,” he said. A P2.1 billion bio-ethanol plant which the Alcantara-owned Alsons Consolidated Resources Inc. (ACR) proposed to build on top of Cagayan de Oro City’s watershed area last year faced opposition, led by the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.

Representatives from Bukidnon sugar millers told the panelists at the Mindanao Area Consultation that they have to campaign for sugarcane
production for ethanol in areas away from sugar mills in order not to jeopardize their suppliers.

The consultation was intended to ask stakeholders in Mindanao if they support the implementation of the 10 percent blend for bioethanol, from the present 5 percent blend. The Biofuels Act, passed in 2007, provides that the mandatory blend be increased to at least 10 percent four years after the implementation of the law.

The government was able to impose the sale of fuel with mandatory 5 percent bioethanol in fuel stations in Metro Manila only. The number 1 culprit, according to sources, is that the supply of bioethanol is not enough to address the required demand.

Of the 223 million liters of ethanol targeted for production according to a 2009 baseline computation, the country produced only 39 million
liters. The country has to import most, or 184 million liters. This year, the country has production capacity of 69 to 79 million liters only out of the 230 million liters requirement. The three plants are San Carlos Bioenergy producing 30 to 40 ML, Leyte Agricultural Corporation producing 9 ML, and Roxol Bioenergy producing 30 ML.

This leaves for import about 151 to 161 million liters or almost double the local production.

A source from the Cotabato participants said the implementation of the 10 percent blend in the midst of high sugar prices would benefit theethanol importers.

Based on the National Biofuels Board presentation, if the ethanol blend is raised to 10 percent, it will bring the demand to 460 million
liters. But the capacity will freeze at 69 to 79 million liters as no plant will be completed in 2011, bringing the size for importation to more than double at 381 to 391 million liters.

Three plants are expected to be operational in 2012 and 2013 with 133.4 million capacities, according to the NBB.

The proposed Bukidnon bioethanol plant, which is supposed to produce 45 million liters a year, is not included among them. (Walter I.
Balane/MindaNews)

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