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Australian-owned firm Rainbow Nation Renewable Fuels (RNRF) was in the "final stages" of applying for a licence from government to produce 288-million litres a year of biodiesel from a R1,5-billion plant it was building at Coega in the Eastern Cape, it said this week.
The plant would be the biggest in Africa, using one-million tons of soybeans to produce 250 000 t of soybean oil and 800 000 t of animal feed.
It would use a portion of the oil to produce the biodiesel, provided it received a licence to do so from the Department of Minerals and Energy.
RNRF MD Geoff Mordt said that the company had already secured the 48 MW of power it required to run the plant, to be commissioned late 2009.
Initially, the bulk of the plant's soybean feedstock would come from abroad, with South Africa's current production at some 300 000 t/y, but Mordt said that the plant will support local commercial and small-scale farmers to grow the country's production.
He added that within five years, the company targeted sourcing nearly 100% of the soybean feedstock from South Africa.
RNRF had yet to conclude the sale of a stake in the company to a black-owned company, required by South African law.
The operation would create 350 new direct permanent jobs, and 725 indirect jobs, the company said in a statement.
RNRF's biggest shareholder is Australia-based National Biofuels Group.
News date: 15/03/2008