An Argentina-based company, backed by a number of Munster ex-rugby players and managed by one of the team’s former props, is planning to build a $525 million (€524.5 million) biofuel plant in Uruguay , which could boost the company’s sales to $1 billion a year.
Essential Energy Holding (EEH), a group of five companies that produce biofuels and a range of by-products, is run by Federico Pucciariello, who played for them for four years starting in 2005.
Based in his hometown of Rosario in the prosperous agricultural province of Santa Fe, the company founded its first company in 2006.
The aviation industry is one of the challenges in decarbonization
It is joined by a number of his former teammates including Alan Quinlan and Denis Leamy. New Zealander Doug Howlett, a former All Black and Munster full-back, is a founding partner of one of the group’s companies.
EEH has made $100 million in unbanked equity investments to date and grown its annual revenue to $300 million, Pucciariello said.
The company is aiming to construct its new plant in Uruguay near the capital Montevideo by 2025 with a construction period of around 28 months and is expected to start in the first quarter of next year.
The facility will produce Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), a form of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) made by adding hydrogen to molecules of fixed vegetable and other waste cooking and agricultural oils.
Its production capacity of 220,000 tons per year could more than triple EEH’s annual sales to $1 billion, according to figures it presented.
HVO biofuel is currently selling at twice the price of conventional aviation fuel, Mr Pucciariello added.
The airline industry is one of the challenges of decarbonization and many airlines are turning to SAF to help them achieve their 2050 net zero targets.
The main difficulty is scaling production so that there are enough plants to produce enough fuel to have a significant impact on reducing CO2 emissions.
Pucciariello – who captained Munster eight times and has a son who was born in Limerick – said a consortium of investment banks including UBS and JP Morgan were providing debt financing for the new plant under a 60/40 debt/equity deal. will provide splits.
The facility will have an offtake agreement with both an airline and an energy company that would use the SAF, he said.
EEH also has plants in Italy and Colombia, as well as Argentina, all of which produce both biofuel and its by-products from various feedstocks, including corn or sugar cane and soybean oil.
“The demand for energy in any form is huge at the moment. The logistics, where we rely on ports in Italy and Argentina, have been challenging at times, as in many supply chains,” he said.
“Our plants are highly automated and use Italian and US technology. Our by-products are glycerin, fatty acids and CO2.
“These contribute to our revenue and are used to make soft drinks (which require CO2), pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements and food products,” he explained.
In 2009, Pucciariello considered building a biofuel plant on the Shannon Estuary, but at the time it turned out to be unviable.
More recently, he has been involved in the supply of equipment for the construction of biofuel plants in Ukraine.
https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/former-munster-rugby-stars-federico-pucciariello-alan-quinlan-and-denis-leamy-planned-525m-jet-biofueplant-could-propel-companys-revenue-to-1bn-42138152.html Former Munster rugby stars Federico Pucciariello, Alan Quinlan and Denis Leamy planned to use $525 million on jet biofuels that could take the company’s sales to $1 billion