Tiger Ethanol aims to convert sugar beets to ethanol

By Kris Bevill
Tiger Ethanol International plans to begin cultivating sugar beets for an ethanol plant in the District of Hami in the Xinjiang Province of China. The company holds 90 percent ownership of Xinjiang Yajia Distillate Co. Ltd., which is currently building an ethanol facility for Tiger Ethanol in Hami. Tiger Ethanol President and Chief Executive Officer James
Leung said his company has conducted research that determined sugar beets are a viable crop in Hami, and will bring additional income to the company and local farmers.

Leung said the ethanol plant should be operational by the end of March. The facility will have a start-up capacity of approximately 10,000 tons per year. Leung said capacity is scheduled to double within the first year of operation. The initial feedstock will be corn, but by 2009, the company will switch to sugar beets.

The district has 500,000 acres of farmland suitable for growing sugar beets, and according to the company, farmers will be able to switch from single-crop to double-crop fields by growing barley from March to June and sugar beets from July to October. Leung said there was previously a state-owned sugar plant in Hami, so farmers in the area are already familiar with growing sugar beets.

Tiger Ethanol will implement its plan in three phases. Phase one involves collaborating with the local government to utilize 100,000 acres of farmland and produce 500,000 tons of sugar beets by 2009. The company will expand the ethanol plant to produce 50,000 tons per year and will also build a $15 million sugar refinery next to the existing ethanol facility.
During phase two, Tiger hopes to expand its ethanol plant to 75,000 tons per year and will add 100,000 acres of farmland for the feedstock. By 2012, production of sugar beets is expected to reach 1 million tons per year.

The final phase of the plan calls for a total of 300,000 acres of farmland producing 1.5 million tons of sugar beets annually by 2014. "We are benefiting from a healthy increase in the price of ethanol in China, and our securing an ongoing supply of biomass at a reasonable price places us in a favorable situation," Leung said.