Wednesday, July 18, 2007

[PB] NZ: Maize-fed Waikato biofuel plant may be running by 2010


The country's largest biofuel plant will be built in the Waikato and
could be powering New Zealand cars by 2010.

LanzaFuels project manager Howard Moore said the company had been
working for almost a year on setting up a maize-to-ethanol plant in the
region, and would speak to Waikato maize growers tonight as part of the
Foundation for Arable Research maize roadshow.

The factory would distil ethanol from maize grain grown in the Waikato,
with the fuel sold to oil companies and mixed with petrol to a ratio of
up to 10 per cent. The Government has set a target of biofuels making up
3.4 per cent of total fuel use by 2012.

Mr Moore declined to give the expected cost of the plant, how much maize
it would need or ethanol it would produce, but said it would be "a major
project" and employ 30 to 40 staff once operating in 2010.

Mr Moore said the only comparable producer in New Zealand was Fonterra,
which made ethanol as a whey byproduct at its Tirau, Edgecumbe and
Reporoa dairy factories. The 16-20 million litres produced each year was
used mainly in the food industry but the LanzaFuels plant would produce
more than this, solely for use as a fuel.

Mr Moore would not confirm where in the region the plant would be built,
but industry sources point to Waharoa as a possible location.

Mr Moore said the site would need access to utilities and be within
economic cartage distance of maize suppliers.

The Waikato had been chosen because of its ready supply of maize and the
prospect of selling the distillers' grain generated as a byproduct by
the plant as stock feed for dairy farmers.

LanzaFuels had not approached maize growers directly to supply the plant
although it had spoken to industry groups. Mr Moore said tonight's
address would give general information on the project rather than be a
business pitch at potential suppliers.

Te Kowhai maize grower John Hodge welcomed the prospect of an ethanol
plant in the region. He said New Zealand lagged behind other countries
on biofuel production and wanted to see the Government subsidise set-up
costs as in the US.

Mr Hodge received just under $300 per tonne for his last crop, which is
used as chicken feed.

He said that growers were expecting rises for the coming season, and
were also hopeful more demand from a local plant might help increase
prices in future.

In February Lanzafuels' Auckland-based parent company LanzaTech secured
$4.7 million from a US investor for technology to convert carbon
monoxide into ethanol. LanzaTech estimates this could create 189 million
litres of ethanol from the steel industry alone.

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