President commissions Bio-ethanol plant : …demonstrates Guyana’s potential for energy secrity


Guyana’s first ever Bio-ethanol Demonstration Plant, a joint venture between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Government of Guyana, was yesterday commissioned by President Donald Ramotar.


The $85M plant is located in the compound of the Albion Sugar Estate in Berbice, and will be managed by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). The IDB has plugged some $67M into the facility, while the remainder of the cost was borne by GuySuCo.
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, President Ramotar stated that the bio-ethanol plant shows the potential that the industry and the country hold in trying to find energy security and cheaper energy for its development. He stressed that no country can be developed without having cheap energy.


Alluding to the fact that the plant will utilise “blackstrap” molasses, the final output from sugar production, he said that the plant now provides an opportunity for another by-product of sugar.


Ramotar emphasised that the sugar industry has enormous potential, noting that there are many by-products and value added products that can be produced in the industry, other than just “raw sugar”.


As such, he believes that GuySuCo also has an important role to play in addressing energy issues.
Ramotar related that the plant will reduce the cost incurred by GuySuCo for fuel, and more importantly, it shows all, workers and management, the potential of the industry.


He added that once this is recognised, people will begin to understand that the present challenges faced by the sugar industry are transient and GuySuCo can be made once more “the most powerful, prestigious and fabulous industry in our country.” 


Moreover, noting that Guyana’s fuel import bill is very high, the president said that it is important for the country to realise its potential for alternative sources in energy.


“We must use all the resources we have so that we can save more and so that we can have money to do other things that are so vital for the further development of our country,” he asserted.


He stressed that a stronger Guyana will be able to make a bigger contribution to the entire Caribbean, the South American continent and the international world.


Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy noted that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government has an agriculture strategy, of which the production of agro-fuel is an important component. 


He pointed out that a bio-energy policy has been developed, and a bio-energy unit was also established and is located at the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), headed by Dr. Clairmont Clementson.


The minister advised that the ethanol produced at the plant will be used by GuySuCo in its laboratory and in its industrial processes.
In addition, he said that some of GuySuCo’s and the Ministry of Agriculture’s vehicles will use an E10 mixture, which is a 10 percent ethanol blend of gasoline.


He noted that the Prime Minister’s office has been working on a transport fuel policy that includes, at a minimum, an E10 formulation. He added that this bio-ethanol plant will allow for the feasibility study on the use of E10 fuel in Guyana to be done.


Chief Executive Officer of GuySuCo, Mr. Paul Bhim, provided a background to the plant, noting that the Government of Guyana has collaborated with the IDB on a programme called “Expanding bio-energy opportunities in Guyana.”


He advised that this technical collaboration includes the installation and commissioning of a bio-ethanol plant for demonstration purposes.


Bhim stressed that the plant will not be used for commercial purposes, but will serve as a training ground for GuySuCo apprentices and employees, as well as for persons from other institutions. According to him, it is a “stepping stone to greater things.”


Meantime, the main objectives of this plant are to demonstrate the production of fuel grade ethanol locally, to provide fuel for future demonstration of use of ethanol as a vehicle source, and to develop a facility for the training of local personnel in bio-fuel technologies.


The plant will utilise “blackstrap” molasses, the final output from the sugar production process, to produce ethanol of a 99.9 percent grade. This ethanol can then be blended with gasoline for use in vehicles. 


This plant utilises a two stage process: fermentation and distillation, and dehydration. Green Bio-refineries of Brazil and WhiteFox Technologies Limited of Canada were contracted and sub-contracted to install the components for the respective processes.


Training is being done for persons who will be operating the plant, and in a training that concludes today, participants are being taught basic knowledge to understand the functioning of the main components of the plant, the knowledge of managing the plant during operation, bio-ethanol quality control, plant maintenance and safety guidelines.


Some 50 persons from 15 agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture, the GuySuCo Training Centre and Agriculture Research Centre, technical institutes around the country, and the University of Guyana, are participating.