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OPIC Board Approves $90 Million to Expand Biomass Project in Liberia

March 10, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) today approved $90 million in financing to expand a sustainable biomass project in Liberia which harvests unproductive rubber trees and processes them into wood chips for energy production. 

The OPIC loan will enable Buchanan Renewables Fuel, Inc. to expand wood chip production at its facility in Liberia from 100,000 metric tons to more than two million metric tons annually by 2017.  The wood chips will be exported to Europe for use as biofuel in power plants.

The loan is OPIC’s second to Buchanan Renewables Fuel, which is owned in part by two U.S. citizens. The first, in 2009, supported the initial start-up of the company

Rubber production remains Liberia’s primary source of foreign exchange, but during the recent civil war, production ceased and an estimated 60-75 percent of rubber trees in the country were destroyed or left to ruin. Farmers were left without a source of income or means to remove old trees and restore rubber production. Buchanan Renewables Fuel will utilize the existing backlog of 60 million tons of biomass to transform an industry-wide liability into an asset, by paying farmers to remove old trees from their land and plant new ones.

“This project will dramatically expand production at OPIC’s largest biomass project to date.  In the process it will help create a new export market for Liberia while rehabilitating the country’s iconic rubber industry,” said OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield.

Buchanan Renewables Fuel President Don Durand said, “OPIC’s approval of the new loan will facilitate a major expansion of the company’s biomass project in Liberia and with that expansion a host of benefits for the Liberian people. It clearly demonstrates OPIC’s strong commitment to private sector growth in developing countries. In addition to the U.S. sponsors, partners Pamoja Capital, Vattenfall, and Swedfund constitute a winning combination of financial strength, environmental and social consciousness.” 

The project will also provide many developmental benefits to the city of Buchanan, where the project is located. Among them:

  • full funding for a local orphanage that is home to 65 children;
  • textbooks for 1500 students at local schools;
  • reconstruction of a women’s market in Buchanan;
  • funding for a vocational development program at Grandbassa Community College;
  • provision of a generator for street lighting;
  • maintenance for the Buchanan-to-Monrovia highway;
  • construction of five bus stops and provision of community bus service;
  • construction of a small community center for Buchanan teenagers.

Finally, the project will create 300 permanent new jobs and provide training for all workers.