By Abigail L. Ho
Last updated 10:40pm (Mla time) 10/08/2006

THE LOCAL biodiesel industry will need $65 million in additional investments to ensure it can meet the demand that the passage of the pending biofuels bill is expected to produce, a former energy official said.

In a presentation before various foreign chambers in the country, former energy undersecretary Jose Victor Emmanuel de Dios, now with consultancy firm Merritt Energy, said the $65-million investment would be needed to put up biodiesel facilities with a total capacity of 306 million liters by 2011.

If additional investments could be raised, he said the current in-country biodiesel production capacity of 126 million liters a year could be jacked up to 161 million liters a year by 2009, 167 million liters a year by 2010 and 432 million liters a year by 2011.

The Philippine National Oil Co. Alternative Fuels Corp. (PNOC-AFC) last month signed a memorandum of understanding with Korean firm Samsung Corp. for an P8.2-billion jatropha facility and refinery project, involving a 120,000-hectare jatropha plantation worth P6 billion, and a 200,000-metric ton biodiesel refinery worth P2.23 billion.

The state firm is also currently in talks with two entities, an American firm and local biodiesel producer Chemrez Inc., for similar agreements.

In an earlier interview, PNOC-AFC president Peter Anthony Abaya said the state firm was working on memoranda of understanding for 400,000-MT biodiesel plants with each of the two firms.

Apart from biodiesel, De Dios said there were also a lot of investment opportunities in the area of bio-ethanol production as the industry needed $460 million worth of investments to meet projected demand up to 2010.

He said the $460-million investment would be enough to put up ethanol refineries with an aggregate capacity of 471 million liters a year by 2010.

If investors could infuse this amount in the local industry from this year onwards, he said in-country ethanol production capacity could reach 220 million liters a year by 2008, 228 million liters a year by 2009, and 471 million liters a year by 2010.

Investments on top of the $460 million, he said, could jack up ethanol refining capacity to 488 million liters a year by 2011 and 505 million liters a year by 2012.

The pending Biofuels Bill is expected to create a market for biodiesel and bio-ethanol, as it will mandate the use of a 1-percent coco methyl ester (CME) blend for diesel and a 5 to 10-percent ethanol blend for gasoline.

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