INDEPENDENT oil company Eastern Petroleum is now in talks with several partners for the construction of ethanol facilities in the country.

“Offers of joint venture and loans are there… the funds are there,” said Fernando Martinez, chairman of Eastern Petroleum.

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He said they are in talks with South Korean and Japanese partners and hopes to seal the deal by March.

But he admitted that they are still on a wait and see attitude now because of some problems.

One problem he cited is the issue on sustainability of feedstocks.

According to Martinez, from the 10 tons per hectare average when the ethanol was mandated, the current national average for ethanol plantation was reduced to one and a half hectare.

The Biofuels law also known as Republic Act 9367 mandates a five percent bioethanol blend into gasoline in 2009 and 10 percent blend in 2011.

In 2009, the country’s demand for bioethanol was pegged at 300 million liters per day and 600 million liters per day would be the demand for 2011.

Because of this projected demand in bioethanol, the country needs 15 to 20 plants.

Martinez however said there are only two ethanol plants that are operating in the country and this are the San Carlos Bioenergy and the Leyte Agri Corp.

Produce from San Carlos, Leyte Agri and Roxol will be available next year but mine is 2012,” he added.

Martinez said they are now also looking at Visayas region for possible area of expansion.

At present, they have a 30-hectare cassava (feedstock) nursery in Isabela.

Ethanol is a high-octane, water-free alcohol produced from sugar cane and other crops such as corn, cassava, sweet sorghum. It is used as a blending component at 5 percent to 10 percent concentration in gasoline.

Unlike fossil fuels, ethanol is virtually inexhaustible since agricultural products can be grown and harvested continually under a sustainable system. (MSN/Sunnex)