15 March 2002

Green fuel plan for the oilfields of the future

By David Green

FARMS could be the oilfields of the future, says an East Anglia businessman who is planning to use oilseed rape crops to manufacture a new "green" fuel.

Dennis Thouless has already set up one fuel producing factory at Shipdham, Norfolk, and plans to build 22 more all over the UK within the next five years.

He is using recycled vegetable oil to produce driveECO fuel, which can replace conventional diesel in most engines without modification, but is keen to use oil from rape crops and wants to forge a partnership with arable farmers.

Mr Thouless is seeking annual contracts for 3000ha (7400 acres) of rape – enough for 3.5m litres of the biodiesel – for his Shipdham plant, which became operational after two years of research and development.

"The response from farmers has been excellent and I am trying to arrange a meeting to discuss the plans in more detail," he said.

Set-aside could be used to grow crops for the fuel, he claimed, and the link between agriculture and new science would benefit farmers and the environment.

Each litre costs 28p to produce, but excise duties and VAT push the retail price up to 87p/litre. However, the government has pledged to cut duties on biofuels by 20p/litre from April, making them cheaper than conventional diesel.

Future processing plants would be bigger than the one at Shipdham, each capable of producing 10m litres.

NFU alternative crop use adviser Nick Starkey said Mr Thoulesss venture could be terrific news for farming.

He also confirmed that a derogation was passing through Brussels that would allow government to make the 20p cut in tax on biofuels.

"Other processing companies who are considering using rape have been waiting to see if the Chancellors promised 20p tax cut would materialise. With the derogation passing through EU Parliament it looks as though government means business."

But he added that many processors still felt a further cut would be needed to entice more processors into the market. &#42

Heres to the future… Dennis Thouless, who plans to turn oilseed rape into green fuel.