Companies partner to create Biofuel Namibia

By Anna Austin | September 16, 2008
Web exclusive posted Sept. 16, 2008 at 1:49 p.m. CST

Leviev Group, an international investment and holding company, has announced that an agreement has been signed with Evogene Ltd. and Orfuel Inc. to establish a new biodiesel company, called Biofuel Namibia Ltd., which will be based in Namibia, Africa.

In September 2007, Evogene, a developer of improved plants for the agricultural biotechnology and biofuel industries, announced a collaboration with Orfuel to develop different non-edible plant varieties for commercial biodiesel production. Orfuel is a U.S. subsidiary of geothermal power and recovered energy generation company Ormat industries, LLC. The companies will now work with Leviev Group on a three-year project to develop the Namibia biodiesel company, and may develop additional projects in other African locations.

Liat Cinamon, an Evogene international and public relations executive, said Evogene, together with Leviev Group and Orfuel, will focus on the commercial growth of castor as a feedstock for biodiesel production. "The new company will sell castor seeds to growers and will grow castor itself and sell the grain to biodiesel plants," he said.

Under the terms of the agreement, Evogene and Orfuel will perform field tests and provide castor varieties for evaluation in order to select the best strain for commercialization. The Leviev Group, which will control a 50 percent share in the venture, will contribute its experience and knowledge of establishing projects in other southern African countries. Evogene will own 37.5 percent, and Orfuel is entitled to 12.5 percent.

Cinamon said the use of castor as feedstock for biodiesel is expected to significantly decrease biodiesel production costs, compared to soybeans or canola, as castor is a high oil-yielding crop which grows on non-arable land.

Eli Nefussy, chief executive officer of the Leviev Group, said he's confident that the experience of the Leviev Group in Africa, together with the technology and knowledge of Evogene and Orfuel, will result in breakthroughs in these fields. Nefussy added that the Leviev Group hopes the collaboration will be a significant layer in creating renewable resources.

"This collaboration fits well into Evogene's business model in the field of biodiesel, and constitutes an additional stage towards commercialization of the plants developed through the joint project with Orfuel in one of our potential target locations," said Ofer Haviv, Evogene president and chief executive officer. "We are convinced that with our extensive capabilities in plants, together with the vast experience of the Leviev Group in Africa, we will be able to develop improved feedstocks addressing the needs of the alternative fuel industry."

Evogene recently completed a five-year research and development collaboration with Monsanto Co. to develop grain yield-enhancing technologies.
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