Viaspace announces South African update, new Philippines project

By Erin Voegele | June 11, 2013

Viaspace Inc. recently provided an update on the status of its Giant King Grass growing in South Africa as part of the previously announced agreement with Johannesburg, South Africa-based Selectra CC. The project agreement was originally announced in late January. At that time, Viaspace noted that Selectra is considering using the dedicated biomass crop in both biogas and direct combustion applications.

In a project update issued in early June, Viaspaced specified that Giant King Grass has since been delivered and planted in South Africa. The first project Selectra is commencing focuses on the remediation of land that has been altered by gold mining while producing energy feedstock.

According to information released by Viaspace, there are thousands of hectares of slimes dams and mine tailings in South Africa that have resulted from gold mining. The slimes dams are primarily composed of crushed rock that has been processed to remove the gold. This material has minimal organic matter and is not suitable soil for food production due to contamination.  

Giant King Grass was planted on slimes dams in order to evaluate its performance. According to the update issued by Viaspace, Giant King Grass can remove heavy metal contaminants from the slimes dams, contributing to remediation. “Selectra’s goal is to use the Giant King Grass as a feedstock for either anaerobic digestion or direct combustion to produce electricity and therefore create value from these slimes dams for themselves and their partner gold mining company,” said Viaspace in a press release. “It may be possible to remove the heavy metal contaminants from the anaerobic digestate as well.”

"Giant King Grass is growing well on the slimes footprint and we are pleased with the results so far.  We are entering a critical phase of the tests as we need to model plant growth during our winter months and the early signs are most encouraging as the plants have continued to grow under the frost covers. In this regard we have extended the trial to December 2013 and thereby having almost 12 months data,” said Dwight Rosslee, Selectra commercial director.

Viaspace also recently announced the signing of a Giant King Grass supply contract with Philippines-based Sagay Central Inc. The company is a sugar milling and sugar growing company that provides raw sugar, washed sugar and specialty Muscavado sugar.

"We are indeed very happy to be working with Viaspace Inc. on this important biomass renewable energy project,” said Romie Cortez, president of Sagay Central. “This fits well with our goal of diversifying our sugar operations in order to remain competitive in this very difficult sugar business in the Philippines. We are looking forward to grow the Viaspace Giant King Grass in our estate for energy production and for export to Korea and Japan."