Bio-fuel maker Biomax Fuels has set up a 50:50 joint venture with the Jeddah-based Middle East Environment Protection Co to set up the first bio-fuel plant in Saudi Arabia.

The $40-million plant, which is expected to be commissioned by 2013-end, will use used cooking oil as feedstock, one of the few plants in the world to use this non-food waste feedstock.

Hyderabad-based Biomax operates a similar plant in Visakhapatnam, which produces 25,000 tonnes of bio-diesel a month for export to Europe. Besides this, it runs a R&D unit in Chennai, which is working on unitisation of different waste oil, including algae oil, for fuel production.

MEEP is a diversified company headquartered in Jeddah having interest in waste management, real estate and healthcare.

M. Ravinder, Chairman of Biomax, said the Saudi Arabian firm will collect and supply the required used cooking oil, while Biomax would set up and operate the plant. “At present, we use feedstock supplied by the Saudi Arabian firm for our Vizag unit. We took this partnership forward to form the joint venture,” he said.

MEEP supplies about 3,000 tonnes of used cooking oil a month to the Vizag unit. While the raw material cost works out to between $ 800-900 a tonne, the unit sells its bio-diesel at about $1100 a tonne.

Europe and the US are the biggest consumers of bio-diesel, as it is mandatory there to blend regular fossil fuel with bio-fuel at a stipulated percentage.

Bader Bin Abdullah Bin Saud, Chairman of MEEP, said the company has a strong collection infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. “Depending on the requirement, we can supply up to a maximum of 2.5 million tonnes per annum. After the first unit, we will be looking at setting up similar units across West Asia and North Africa region,” he said.

Ravinder said the technology being used in the plant was developed in-house by Biomax, which has the flexibility to use alternative feedstock such as crude palm oil, sunflower oil and even acid oil.

(This article was published on December 8, 2012)
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