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Paraguay grants "Zona Franca" status to Omega Green biorefinery project

The Government of Paraguay has published a decree by President Mario Abdo Benítez granting "Zona Franca" (Free Zone) status for the Omega Green biorefinery project. Touted by developers ECB Group Paraguay part the Brazil-headed ECB Group, as the largest advanced biofuel plant in the southern hemisphere, it is the first to be built in the country.

An artist’s rendering of ECB Group Paraguay’s 20 000 barrel-per-day renewable fuel biorefinery Omega Green (image courtesy ECB Group).

Signed by President Mario Abdo Benítez on January 20, 2020, the Free Zone guarantees the maintenance of the legal conditions of the project for a period of 30 years, reinforcing the legal security for investment in the country.

According to ECB Paraguay, the decision of the Paraguayan government will contribute to the economic competitiveness of the project and will reduce the cost of its construction. The presidential decree highlights that the concession of “Zona Franca” is justified for the following reasons:

  • “Boost foreign trade” in the country, as all its products will be exported;
  • Add value to raw materials produced in Paraguay, such as animal fats, vegetable oils, and residual oils;
  • It will be an important source of job creation and will bring “cutting edge technology” to Paraguay;
  • The complex is considered “of national interest” due to its importance and social and economic scope for Paraguay. It is the largest private investment in a single project in the country’s history and is anticipated to bring gains of more than US$8 billion in 10 years for the economy.

Land acquired and RIMA submitted

In addition to the Zona Franca concession, President Abdo Benítez also signed a decree allowing the EBC Group to purchase the land the Villeta district for the construction of the biorefinery.

Located in the city of Villeta, about 45 km from the capital Asunción, the land is located in a designated Security Zone, on the banks of the Paraguay River, in the region bordering Argentina and the required approval from the Ministry of Defense.

An environmental impact study (RIMA) as required by government authorities on both sides of the border has been completed and is under public consultation until the end of January.

The signing of the Zona Franca concession, together with the approval of the purchase of the land for the installation of the company and the conclusion of the environmental impact study demonstrates that our project is rigorously and with great success fulfilling the schedule we defined at the beginning. We took very important steps and we are going very well, commented Erasmo Carlos Battistella, CEO of ECB Group.

Construction starts in H2/2020

Launched in February 2019, ECB Group’s US$800 million Omega Green Project represents the largest private investment in the history of Paraguay and aims to build the first-of-it-kind and largest advanced biofuel plant in the Southern Hemisphere.

The greenfield biorefinery will produce renewable diesel (HVO – Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) and renewable aviation kerosene (sustainable aviation fuel –SAF). Most of the production from the 20 000 barrels-per-day nameplate capacity plant is expected to be exported to Paris Agreement signatory countries, such as the United States (US), Canada, and the European Union (EU).

As announced in November 2019, Barclays and UBS banks have been selected for the financial structuring of the project. The main technology suppliers include Crown Iron Works and Honeywell UOP whereas Acciona has been selected as the EPC contractor. Construction is expected to start in the second half of 2020 and the execution period is estimated at 30 months

Our commitment to Paraguay and the government is that we are coming to the country not to compete, but to build together and add value to the raw materials produced here. Omega Green will export its production, bringing economic, environmental, and social benefits to the country ended Erasmo Carlos Battistella.

About the ECB Group

Founded in 2011 by the Brazilian businessman Erasmo Carlos Battistella, ECB Group is a holding company with investments and strategic holdings in agro energy companies, operating throughout the value chain such as biodiesel production and electricity generation using renewable sources.

The investment portfolio includes participation in companies such as BSBIOS, R.P.BIO, R.P. BIO Switzerland SA, ECB Brasil Ltda, and ECB Group Paraguay.

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