March 21, 2007 / 1:56 AM / 12 years ago

U.S.-based Maple invests in Peru ethanol production

LIMA (Reuters) - Dallas-based Maple Cos. plans to make Peru a competitor in the growing world market for ethanol fuel, taking advantage of its year-round sugar cane harvests and easy shipping from its Pacific ports.

Guillermo Ferreyros, general manager of Maple Gas Corp. of Peru, speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit in Lima, March 20, 2007. REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

Speaking at the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit in Lima, Maple Gas Corp. of Peru General Manager Guillermo Ferreyros said the company’s $120 million initial Peruvian ethanol investment in January would yield 120 million liters yearly output by 2009, all for export.

“Our long-term aim is to triple that, to get to 360 million liters; it all depends on the (sugar cane) land we can get,” he said.

Maple earlier this year bought 10,600 hectares (26,200 acres) of sugar cane fields in the northern region of Piura, near Ecuador, where it will build an ethanol plant, and Ferreyros said it seeks to buy more fields.

In Piura, sugar cane can be harvested year-round and has a higher yield than elsewhere, he said.

Another advantage is that the ethanol plant will be close to the ocean, allowing for transport through nearby seaports for exports to the Pacific Rim.

Ferreyros contrasted those advantages with what he called “the whole logistical issue” in Brazil, the largest producer of ethanol based on sugar cane.

“Economically, Peru is going to obtain a much more profitable ethanol than Brazil,” he asid. “Ethanol in Peru will become its flagship product,” he said.

Ferreyros gave no details on what he sees as Brazil’s transport problems. Brazil’s ethanol plants are mainly in Sao Paulo state, near the Atlantic ocean.

A growing number of port terminals nearby has eased ethanol export, analysts say. Soybeans, Brazil’s No. 1 farm export, face greater logistical problems since soy farms are mainly located in Mato Grosso state, which borders Bolivia.

U.S. ETHANOL INTEREST

Brazil is the No. 2 producer of ethanol in the world after the United States, whose ethanol is largely based on corn, which has been promoted by President George W. Bush as a biofuel to wean Americans off petroleum dependence.

Earlier this month Bush and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Sliva sealed an agreement to advance biofuel technology, help spread ethanol production in other countries and set common standards for the fuel.

Maple, which says Peru is a hub of its operations, entered the country in 1990 with natural gas projects and later expanded into petroleum production and refining.

In 2007, Maple will invest between $15 million and $20 million to explore for petroleum in the Amazon Peruvian region of Loreto, Ferreyros said.

Additional reporting by Peter Blackburn in Rio de Janeiro

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