Ghana biodiesel producer to supply Chilean utility

By Ryan C. Christiansen | January 01, 2009
Web exclusive posted Dec. 30, 2008, at 1:48 p.m. CST

Gold Star Biofuels, a Goldstar Farms Ltd. company based in Ghana, has secured a contract to build small biodiesel production facilities throughout Chile to produce a combined total capacity of 77 MMgy from Chilean jatropha oil for Energy Partners Chile Ltd. A B20 biodiesel blend will be used to produce electricity at Energy Partners Chile's 43-megawatt power generation facility in Degan on the island of Chiloe.

According to Jack Holden, executive director for Gold Star Biofuels, the company has commitments from farmers in Chile to grow jatropha on 2.5 million acres. "We like to find land where other things don't grow very well or land that has been fallow," Holden said. He said the biofuels company will set up eight separate refineries in Chile that will each produce more than 100,000 liters (26,400 gallons) of biodiesel per day. Holden said the technology provider will be USFuelTech LLC of Aiken, S.C., which provides turnkey, modular biodiesel refineries.

Gold Star Biofuels plans to begin cultivating jatropha in Chile and within two years will deliver biodiesel to Energy Partners Chile for power generation. "It's going to take about five to seven years to get to the point where we are completely independent," Holden said. "In the meantime, we will bring in vegetable oil from other locations around the world until we can produce oil completely for ourselves. Our intentions are to be completely self-sufficient in Chile so that we produce all of our biodiesel in Chile, including growing it all. Every gallon will keep money in the country."

In 2005, Goldstar Farms began cultivating jatropha in Ghana where it has commitments from farmers to grow jatropha on 5 million acres, Holden said. The company plans to begin producing biodiesel at its facility in Nkawkaw, Ghana, in the near future. The company's jatropha crops in Ghana are currently used for seed. "We're using those seeds for planting in other areas," Holden said. "As soon as we have clearance from the government of Chile, we will be sending seeds over there. We have a pretty hearty strain."

The company also plans to begin cultivating jatropha in Colombia in mid-2009, Holden said. The company is evaluating the potential for growing jatropha in Mexico, he added, and is looking at producing biodiesel from waste vegetable oil in the U.S.

Holden said landowners who contract with Gold Star Biofuels to provide jatropha sign 50-year commitments. "When we go out into villages and see the four- and five-year-old children there, we know that a lot of them will be working on our farms and taking the place of their parents working there," Holden said. He said Gold Star Biofuels shares profits with landowners, pays good wages and supplies medical insurance to workers. Instead of hiring migrant workers, Holden said Gold Star employs workers year-round. It's all a part of Gold Star's commitment to be socially responsible, he added.

"What's happening in the rural areas in the third world countries now," Holden said, "is that the younger generations are trying to migrate into the cities hoping to find jobs. When they get there, they find out there are no jobs and so they become street sellers and they're sleeping under bridges and most of them are too proud to want to go home. By creating jobs out there in the rural area, what we're doing is we're keeping those families intact and providing real jobs for people who do want to do that kind of work."

Holden said Gold Star Biofuels operations are wholly owned by his wife Diana Holden, a native of Ghana.
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