Biopetrol starts up Rotterdam plant

Switzerland-based biodiesel producer Biopetrol Industries began to bring its 400,000 tonne a year plant in Rotterdam on stream this week and plans to run the operation at half capacity in 2009.

Initially the company expected the plant to be fully operational by the end of Q1 2009 but the company would run just one of two lines due to conservative planning and the outlook for demand and margins.

Biopetrol had originally planned a 2007 start-up for the plant but had to push back the deadline due to manufacturing and permit procedure delays.

Biopetrol is targeting sales of 440,000 tonnes of biodiesel in 2009, as it expected 60% operational capacity at its 750,000 total production capacity, which also includes output from its German facilities in Rostock and Schwarzheide.

The company reported a net loss of €4.4 million in Q3 2008, and expects significant ramp-up costs for the Rotterdam plant in Q4.

Biopetrol CEO Klaus Henschel expressed concerns about the effects of an economic downturn on demand, but is positive about the outlook now the US is ending the splash and dash subsidies that allow biofuels to be exported across the Atlantic below cost.

‘We see a significant shift for our customers towards rapeseed oil,’ Henschel says. The use of palm and soybean oil would no longer qualify for tax-advantaged deliveries in Germany, he adds.

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