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Plant plans fuel from crop waste

[Resource] Copenhagen Post

A new pilot plant will use waste products to create a cheaper, environmen-tally-friendly fuel alternative to petrol

A pilot unit has been established at Danish Technical University (DTU) that will convert agricultural bi-products into ethanol, daily financial newspaper Børsen has reported.

The breakthrough solved the problem of using actual foodstuff to create the fuel, a method which had long been criticised as being neglectful towards the world’s undernourished population.

The installation, Maxifuels, was made possible through research by the firm Biogasol, and it will use agricultural bi-products like straw, maize stalks and leaves to produce the fuel.

‘The pilot plant will prove to potential investors that the method actually works outside the laboratory,’ said Professor Birgitte Ahring, Biogasol founder and co-owner. ‘Even with the existing expenses, it’s still cheaper than petrol.’

US President George W. Bush stated earlier in the year that the US, the world’s largest consumer of energy, plans to reduce oil imports from the Middle East by 75 percent. That means a massive potential for ethanol, which is already being used in significant quantities in Brazil.

‘The potential is infinite, because most countries are trying to free themselves from their dependence on oil,’ said Ahring.

The only remaining obstacle to the fuel’s success is government backing, which now appears to be a reality. Money is needed to build a larger plant that can produce at least 10 million litres of ethanol per year to make the fuel economically viable.

The price for such an installation would be around DKK 200 million, according to Ahring, with the money coming from both public and private sources.

The government, which had been hesitant to support food-based ethanol, has put up DKK 200 million for the bio-version over the next four years.

The most obvious private investors would include existing fuel producers, such as Statoil and Dong Energy, who have both expressed interest in a co-operative effort with Biogasol in the production and marketing of bio-ethanol.

‘It’s an area we’ve already put a lot into, so we’re following developments with great interest,’ said John Berg, head of Statoil’s Kalundborg refinery.