PUBLISHED ON INTER PRESS SERVICE
An ambitious project to produce clean energy for the Netherlands and Belgium has degenerated into a controversial abuse of natural resources in Africa.
Bioshape, a clean energy company based in Neer, the Netherlands, is going through bankruptcy proceedings after spending 9.6 million dollars on a failed biofuel project in Tanzania.
In 2006, the company agreed to lease 80,000 hectares of coastal woodland in the southern district of Kilwa to grow jatropha, a shrub whose seeds contain an oil that can be processed into green fuel.
Bioshape planned to employ thousands of local farmers and export seeds from Tanzania to the Netherlands, where they would be processed to produce electricity, heat and biodiesel.
Jatropha is one of the preferred feedstocks for fuel produced from plant material.
Commonly called biofuel – agrofuel to its critics – such fuel is supposed to be less polluting than traditional fossil fuels.
BioShape invested 25 million euros in a facility intended to process 45,000 tonnes of vegetable oil per annum, and generate 25 megawatt hours, enough to power 50,000 households.
The plant in Lommel was just one component of an ambitious network of refineries and co-generation plants that Bioshape planned to build across Belgium and the Netherlands.
The project was backed by big investors such as the Dutch merchant bank Kempen and the utility Eneco.