14 September 2001

Future energy source?

FARMERS are set to become the sheikhs of the future, in charge of the worlds energy market, suggests Peter Billins, chief executive of British Biogen. And potatoes could have a crucial role to play.

The Treasury has given British Biogen the job of coming up with the UKs next sustainable fuel source. Mr Billins says that will be bio-ethanol – alcohol produced from starchy crops. "We can take anything you call waste – potatoes, sugar beet, vegetables or straw."

The plan is to build fermentation plants to turn waste potatoes, estimated to be around 1.2m t/year, into bio-ethanol to add to petrol to make a mix called E10 -10% bio-ethanol.

With UK petrol sales estimated to be around 21m t/year, the main problem will be the 2m t of raw material needed in the next 18 months, says Mr Billins.

The first £150m plant, on the Humber, could be open for business at the end of next year.