17 November 2006

Dutch to transform big methanol plant to biofuels

A consortium of Dutch and Belgian investors said on Friday it had bought a methanol plant in the Netherlands to transform it into the world’s first biomethanol plant, producing 1 billion liters of green petrol per year. The investors, BioMethanol Chemie Holding, have bought the plant in Delfzijl in the North-east of the Netherlands from Akzo Nobel, DSM and Dynea.

The plant was taken it out of production a few months ago due to competition from oil-producing nations which use their excess natural gas to produce low-cost fossil methanol. “In the coming nine months we’ll make the necessary changes and after that it will produce only biomethanol, which will make it the world’s first biomethanol plant of substantial capacity,” said Chief Executive of BioMethanol Chemie Paul Hamm.

Production will start at 100 kilotonnes of biomethanol, 100 million liters, and rise to 1 million kilotonnes soon afterwards, said Hamm. The European Union demands that by 2010, 5.75 percent of its 50 million-tonne petrol consumption should come from biofuels, and Hamm said the Delfzijl plant alone can contribute 2 percentage points of that requirement.

The plant will use a new and very efficient process to make biomethanol from glycerine, a byproduct of biodiesel which is yet another kind of renewable green fuel made from oil-containing plants. The price of glycerol has dropped sharply due to the increasing world production of biodiesel.

Biomethanol can double as a direct in-blend and a replacement for the petrol additive MTB, currently used as a lead replacement, Hamm said. Biomethanol can also be produced from biomass, and Hamm said the process to make biomethanol is several times more efficient than bioethanol, derived from sugar-containing crops such as corn and biomass.

“It is a better, more cost-effective and certainly more environmentally friendly way to add bio-components compared to the usage of ethanol,” Hamm said.

(Cf. news of 2004-10-13 and 2004-10-07.)

Source: Reuters UK Nov. 3, 2006.

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