Grass growing for energy pellets

-US biofuels company in Kwakwani venture

A US-based biofuels company has begun to cultivate the fast-growing Giant King Grass in the intermediate savannahs here for export to a renewable energy company in St. Lucia.

VIASPACE Inc announced recently that it has signed a contract with St Lucia-based Emunite Energy Solutions Inc. to provide Giant King Grass for its planned 100,000 ton per year pellet mill on the island. Giant King Grass was delivered to Guyana and planted April 15-17 and VIASPACE received an initial payment, and will receive an ongoing licence fee upon production. Giant King Grass is a proprietary, fast-growing perennial grass.

Glenrick White, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Emunite, said that his company plans to export its Giant King Grass pellets to the U.S. and Europe for use in power plant applications.

“We are happy to team with VIASPACE to provide Giant King Grass as a dedicated energy crop for our pellet mill. Giant King Grass pellets will be exported to the USA and Europe to replace coal in existing coal-fired power plants, thus reducing their carbon dioxide emissions. This renewable energy project is good for the global environment, and provides agriculture and industrial jobs in Guyana,” he said.

Planting Giant King Grass by hand in the intermediate savannahs on April 16. (VIASPACE photo)
Planting Giant King Grass by hand in the intermediate savannahs on April 16. (VIASPACE photo)

“This project has received support from the Ministry of Agriculture as well as Go Invest Guyana and is seen as a viable boost not only to employment but also to foreign exchange. We have partnered with a local team lead by David Searam and Arnold Doobay to facilitate the provision of alternative employment and promotion of agriculture for the area of Kwakwani, a predominantly logging area,” White added. The area under cultivation is not clear.

Dr. Carl Kukkonen, CEO of VIASPACE, the statement said, came to Guyana to oversee the planting. “I was very impressed with the professionalism of the Guyana team. The Giant King Grass, which originated from our nursery in California, was planted in savanna grassland that is adjacent to the rain forest. The Guyana team is confident that rainfall will be sufficient and that additional irrigation is not needed. The planting is only 140 miles from Georgetown, the capital, and is strategically placed, being very close to the Berbice River where timber is currently exported, and pellets can be easily transported to the river for export,” he said, according to the statement.

“The tropical climate of Guyana is ideal for growing Giant King Grass. Near the coast, they grow a lot of sugarcane. However, there are vast areas in the interior suitable for Giant King Grass where nothing of significant economic value is growing now. This represents a large business opportunity for Guyana and for VIASPACE,” Kukkonen added.

VIASPACE Inc’s Giant King Grass propagation nursery site in tropical savanna grassland adjacent to the rain forest in Guyana. (VIASPACE photo)
VIASPACE Inc’s Giant King Grass propagation nursery site in tropical savanna grassland adjacent to the rain forest in Guyana. (VIASPACE photo)

According to VIASPACE Board Chairman Dr. Kevin Schewe, the market for pellets is set to grow. “Our shareholders know how financially important the global pellet market is. The current global market volume of demand for biomass pellets is about 16 million metric tons annually and is projected to essentially triple to 46 million tons annually by 2020, representing a total market value of $8 billion U.S.,” he said.

“Most of the near-term growth is predicted in wood fuel pellet markets worldwide. At VIASPACE, we know that we have a better solution to this demand. Our product, Giant King Grass, is rapidly and continuously renewable (can be harvested at 15 feet height twice per year in a rain forest climate like Guyana) as opposed to trees which provide a vital environmental canopy and have a long life cycle,” Schewe added.

VIASPACE grows Giant King Grass as a low-carbon fuel for clean electricity generation; for environmentally friendly energy pellets; and as a feedstock for bio-methane production and for green cellulosic biofuels, biochemicals and biomaterials. Giant King Grass is a proprietary, high yield, dedicated biomass energy crop. According to the company, Giant King Grass when it is cut frequently at 4 to 5 feet tall is also excellent animal feed.

The company said that the US Department of Agriculture granted approval for planting Giant King Grass throughout the US and cooperates in exporting by performing the required inspections and issuing the phytosanitary certificate needed for import into foreign countries. Giant King Grass is being grown in California, Arizona, Hawaii, St. Croix Virgin Islands, Nicaragua, South Africa, China, Myanmar, Pakistan and Guyana.


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