* Producers say imports still a problem
* 2.3 million tonnes aditional capacity in 2009
* Bioethanol plants at 60 percent capacity
By Martin Roberts
MADRID, April 24 Spain's biodiesel plants are
running at just nine percent of capacity, producers say,
although they hope recent duties imposed by the European Union
on U.S. imports will help revive production.
"Nonetheless, imports -- also subsidised -- from countries
like Argentina, Malaysia and Indonesia, could also become as
damaging as from the U.S.," said a report by the biofuels
division of renewable energy industry group APPA.
APPA estimates that 71 percent of the 586,000 tonnes of
biodiesel sold in Spain in 2008 was imported, and called for the
Spanish government to ensure legal requirements to blend motor
fuel with plant-based fuel be met with EU-manufactured fuels.
"We are simply asking for measures to ensure the domestic
biofuel industry's survival, just as France, Portugal and Italy
have been doing," APPA added.
As of January 1 this year, Spain has had a mandatory target
of 3.4 percent of automotive fuel used in 2009 to be derived
from biofuel -- measured by energy content -- a level that will
rise to 5.83 percent in 2010.
Biodiesel plants were producing 18 pct of capacity a year
ago, since when capacity has grown quicker than production, the
The EU has encouraged biofuels in order to cut greenhouse
gas emissions by motor vehicles and reduce Europe's dependence
on imported fossil fuels.
Biodiesel can be made from oilseeds and blended with mineral
diesel, while bioethanol can come from cereals and be mixed with
APPA's latest tally shows that 36 biodiesel plants were
operational by the end of 2008 with the capacity to produce
about 2 million tonnes per year, but only half were working, and
Another 19 plants with a capacity of 2.3 million tonnes are
due to come on stream this year, as investors have bet on demand
being created by mandatory blending laws.
APPA has estimated that demand for biodiesel will be at most
1 million tonnes this year, and has also asked the government to
mandate the sale of labelled fuels containing more than the
"In Spain we are really far behind many of our EU partners
in making biofuels available in service stations," an APPA
Spain's four bioethanol plants were meanwhile running at 60
percent of their total capacity of 460,000 tonnes, APPA
Renewable energy firm Abengoa (ABG.MC) restarted Spain's
biggest plant last August -- which it jointly owns with food
firm Ebro Puleva EVA.MC with a view to meeting a forecast
increase in demand due to mandatory blending.
Industry sources have said that the 158,000 tonne-per year
Salamanca plant is currently producing for export only, but
expects domestic demand to increase when the government raises
fuel blending targets again next year.
For a factbox on Spanish biodiesel plants, please click on
(Reporting by Martin Roberts; Editing by Keiron Henderson)