Sugar Technology
On-line News

March 2007

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February brought a very mixed bag of news but nothing outstanding.


With echoes of the Oman refinery, the National Sugar Refining Company of Abu Dhabi has announced a $150 million project to build a 750,000 t/a RSO refinery. The first phase of the refinery will reportedly only be sized for 300,000 t/a. The sponsor of the project is looking for an 18 month programme.


Some time ago we carried a story about Guysuco wanting vast sums from the EU in compensation for the regime change. Well they have the first tranche but it is only €5.6 million. The EU has promised a total of €165 million in 2007/08 but that is for all of the ACP countries so no one country will get much.

In another move, the EU has said that it will assign a sugar quota to the Dominican Republic even though there has been no historical connection between that country and the EU.


The news from Cuba is not good : serious doubts are being expressed about its ability to reach this year’s annual production budget 1.6 million tons. There seems to be the usual mix of reasons, most of which would be manageable in most countries : mills are running at below 80% of capacity and the yield is well below the planned 11%.


The European Commission has introduced the long expected quota reduction for 2007/08 in a weighted manner : countries that have not tried to cut production face a 13.5% reduction while countries which have already reduced by more than 50% will not have to reduce at all. You can read the details at the EU web site


Florida Crystals, owners of Okeelanta and Osceola mills plus the major shareholder in ASR [Domino as was], has entered into a public-private partnership with the Applied Research Centre of Florida International University to investigate bagasse hydrolysis. Half of the cost of the $2 million programme will be funded by Florida’s DEP and the other half will come from FCC on a matching funds basis.

The logical place for the pilot plant is Okeelanta but, as that burns all of its bagasse plus additional biomass in its 75 MW export power station, any success with the research will lead to a quandary there.


Illovo’s Kilombero in Tanzania is looking at a distillery and export cogeneration. It has apparently got a USAid or similar grant to investigate the options. The numbers reported seem hard to believe [10 MW internal consumption, 40 MW exported] and, given the size of the grant [$300,000], harder to achieve.


Marromeu seems to have escaped the Zambezi floods last month but just downstream at Luabo [where the second of the Sena sugar factories used to be] a dam wall burst, threatening lives. It is unclear whether that is the main river bund wall or some water storage dam.


There were some interesting comments made at the TH presentation of its 2006 results last month. It was stated, for instance, that the group already had board approval for an export co-generation facility at Felixston but that no details would be released until midyear 2007.

Perhaps of more interest were the supportive comments on the Zimbabwean operations. It was implied that the group would be investing soon to increase capacity from the present 447,000 tons to 600,000 tons and that a ‘modest’ investment of about $300 million would take it to 1 million tons. As Zimbabwe is not one of the United Nations’ ‘Least Developed Countries’ [despite the President’s best efforts to pauper the country], it does not have access to the EU’s EBA programme so any such investment is surprising.


The Queensland government is to investigate the planting of non-approved cane varieties – and is likely to find out that they are correct. Since smut was first discovered last year many of the traditional varieties have been removed from the approved list because they are prone to smut. However there is just not enough seed cane of the remaining varieties available so farmers are continuing to use the old varieties. Could be suicide?


Eastern Sugar, the Tate and Lyle and St Louis Sucre joint venture in Eastern Europe that is being closed down under the EU regime changes, is apparently going to be turned into a biogas production company. It is unclear whether the fermentation will be based on beets or just some sort of waste stream but if sugar is not being produced then what is the waste?


The founder of Biofuels Corporation, a company which is building a large facility in the north east of England is eyeing one of the Irish Sugar sites – presumably Mallow – as a location for a new biobutanol facility using beet as the feedstock for the fermentation. It should be noted that John Nicholas, an Australian and the man in question, resigned from Biofuels Corporation over delays in implementation of its project.


You cannot keep a good man down : Tarif Akhras is still claiming that he will build an $80 million sugar refinery in Syria despite the fact that the 1 million t/a RSO Brazil/Cargill/Najib Hassaf refinery near Homs is said to be 50% complete and scheduled for production in early 2008.

On the other hand we haven’t heard any more about Cargill’s proposed Louisiana refinery : have you?


The government has now confirmed the names of the five short-listed tenderers for SCJ and there is definite alcohol theme in there :

  • Wray and Nephew [Jamaican company with existing sugar mill and its famous rum]
  • Gibson Energy [Jamaican company currently looking at the dehydration of imported ethanol for on-sale to the US]
  • Coimex [Brazilian company with an existing ethanol dehydration facility on the island]
  • Angostura [Trinidadian company famous for its bitters]
  • Dhampur [Indian company owned by the Goel family currently providing technical support to SCJ : its share price dropped 38% between November and February so may not bid]

It has also stated [admitted?] that it has recently given SCJ US $44 million to pay off creditors so that it could continue to purchase supplies. The rationale given was this was money saved by not paying Venezuela for its oil supplies! [There is a regime in place which allows Caribbean countries to pay for oil over 25 years with soft Venezuelan loans.]


Jamal Al Ghurair, owner of the Al Khaleej refinery, has stated that he intends to increase the daily capacity of the refinery by 50% to 7,000 tons per day. The refinery is already possibly the largest in the world.


The Pakistani government seems to have let the cat out of the bag by boasting about the export of a 95” four roll SKODA mill to, of all places, Louisiana. Although SKODA [now called TS Plzeň by the way] have been making mills in Pakistan for some years it is not clear whether the customers were aware of that. What is a mystery is the name of the client in Louisiana.


Savola have announced that the new Red Sea refinery, a joint venture with Tate and Lyle and local partners, will start production in August this year. The initial capacity is 750 000 t/a RSO but if the Jeddah refinery is anything to go by there will be in-built expansion capacity. Jeddah is currently rated at 1 million t/a but that is scheduled to increase to 1.2 million this year and possibly to 1.4 million in 2008.


Gillian Eggleston from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in New Orleans has developed a titration technique to determine more accurately the correct dose of the enzyme needed when treating high dextran juice. You can read more about this at the ARS web site.

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