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Cassava-run biomass plant closer to fruition

Cassava-run biomass plant closer to fruition

A planned biomass plant run on cassava in Battambang province looks ever more likely after a trial period with 100 farmers was successfully completed.

Idemitsu Oil & Gas signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) in 2012 to explore the development of biofuels in Cambodia.

The first phase of the Japanese firm’s three-year feasibility study was to assess whether farmers in Battambang province – an area plagued by unexploded ordinance – could provide the amount of cassava required to power such a biomass plant, said CMAC director general Heng Rattana.

“The feasibility study was completed after two years and it was found that investment is feasible. The company now is focusing on the second phase of the study: the feasibility of investing in and constructing the plant itself,” he said. “They are looking for a site to construct the biomass plant, however, it has not been made official yet.”

Cassava production from at least 15,000 hectares will be needed to supply the facility. Idemitsu currently has 100 hectares of farms under contract, which is set to scale up to 2,000 hectares due to the trial period’s success.

Chhim Vichara, director of Battambang province’s Agriculture Department, said that the plant will provide a sustainable market for local farmers and allow them to be less dependent on the Thai market.

“More processing plants mean farmers will be less worried about having a market for their products,” he said.

Cassava production in Battambang province doubled from 2 million tonnes in 2013 to about 4 million tonnes last year.

Idemitsu Oil & Gas’s Phnom Phnom office declined to comment yesterday.

According to a press release from Idemitsu when it signed the MoU, the company expects to produce up to 200,000 kilolitres of ethanol yearly by 2020.

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