Cardiff Biodiesel Refinery, United Kingdom

One of the biggest developments in the world fuel markets at the current time is the development of biofuels and plants to manufacture biofuels from a range of natural feedstock resources.

There have been criticisms lately of biofuel manufacture where, for example, bioethanol production has been said to cause more carbon emissions during its manufacture than it ultimately saves. This aside there is now government legislation called the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), which requires all diesel fuel sold in the UK (by obligated suppliers) to blend in 2.5% of biodiesel by April 2008 and 5% by April 2010 (the UK and EU will eventually require in excess of 10% biodiesel to be incorporated in road fuels).


BIODIESEL IN CARDIFF

In December 2007 Flex Fuels Energy Ltd (a subsidiary of Malibu Minerals) was granted the final consent for the development and construction of a new biodiesel refinery at the Port of Cardiff, Wales, UK (initial investment by Malibu will be $10m).

"One of the biggest developments in the world fuel markets at the current time is the development of biofuels."

The final hurdle prior to construction is the detailed planning of the facility (to be carried out by Lurgi of Germany) and the pollution prevention control consent, which will be completed in the first quarter of 2008.


An earlier planning consent obtained by the company in 2007 was for the construction of an oilseed crush and solvent extraction plant but now the company has decided to construct a larger scale biodiesel refinery with an integrated solvent extraction seed press to handle 225,000t a year of seed material.

There is also room for expansion – plans were modified in October 2007 in favour of the larger-scale plant.

The plant in full production will give 100,000t a year of biodiesel for the UK domestic market. Brian Barrows, CEO of Flex Fuels, commented; "I am extremely pleased to receive this consent, which reflects well upon our engineering team who are operating in a highly regulated UK planning regime.

"In conjunction with the outputs from the EWA (Early Works Agreement), it will enable us to complete our full planning process very shortly. This as an important milestone, enabling us to progress to development of our detailed design, off take and supply agreements required to move to a timely financial close, EPC contract and, importantly, to maintain the strategic timing for our intended UK market entry."

FIRST PHASE

The first phase of the development will be a seed crush plant (operated by Flex Fuels) at the Port of Cardiff site (6ha leased on long-term from Associated British Ports), which will take rapeseed feedstock from a local farmers cooperative who have committed to supplying the majority of the material required (in production during 2008 and processing 750t of seed a day.

The crush plant will be of standard construction and then in phase two will be converted or retrofitted into a solvent extraction plant to feed material to the biodiesel plant. Flex Fuels have said they will use established mainstream technology to build the refinery (provided by Lurgi) and will not be engaged in the initial stages in any development of technology.

The plant is being scaled for proven markets and to use the bio feedstock material available. The produced fuel will be stored at the refinery and the off-take will occur by rail, road and ship.

BYPRODUCTS

The crush process for rapeseed will produce around 36% rapeseed oil (RSO – raw and requiring refining) and also 64% solids pressed with a little oil to produce oilseed rape cake (OSR), which has value as high quality animal feed for the agricultural industry.

Flex Fuels is attempting to build a 'farm to fuel' value chain in the UK but it will probably be more likely a 'farm to fuel to farm' value chain if we take into account the animal feed as well.

"The plant in full production will give 100,000t a year of biodiesel for the UK domestic market."

CONTRACTORS

Lurgi Aktiengesellschaft is a subsidiary of the Air Liquide Group (experts in biofuel technology) and are carrying out an early works agreement under, which they will provide detailed design and cost estimates for a fixed price EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) contract to deliver an integrated seed press / solvent extraction plant and biodiesel refinery. Lurgi should then be appointed as the EPC contractor for the project.

The work will certainly be managed by Lurgi on a cost-plus-fee basis which will include extra engineering work outside the original scope such as commissioning and validation.

Brian Barrows said: "I am pleased that Flex Fuels has secured Lurgi as it technology partner. They are a world leader in biofuel technology with an outstanding track record for quality and timely delivery. Lurgi has an excellent reputation with both banks and customers, providing FFE Ltd with a solid foundation for timely delivery of a best in class plant."

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