Greenfield partners to clean up Chernobyl contamination

By Jessica Sobolik | June 02, 2008
Greenfield Project Management Ltd. announced an agreement with PvT Capital GmbH in May that will expand Greenfield's plans to produce ethanol from biomass crops grown on contaminated soil.

Both companies were planning separate biofuel projects to remediate the land affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. They decided to pool their resources to jointly develop Greenfield's proposed ethanol plants in Mozyr and Bobruisk, Belarus, and expand them into biomass biorefineries. The plants will be able to produce ethanol, biodiesel, biogas and green electricity with a relatively small amount of waste ash left over, which will contain radioactive isotopes and be stored in safe locations.

"We are coming into this project as both a shareholder and as a technology partner and leader," said Chris Verbakel, chief operating officer of PvT Capital. "This partnership marks our entry into Belarus and represents another step in the implementation of our international expansion strategy."

The partnership also included the Centre for Environmental Research, part of the Helmholtz Association of Research Centres. Helmholtz professors Frank-Dieter Kopinke and Holger Weiss will provide the projects with advice, supervision and certification to make sure that products from the area are free of contamination. Scientists from Helmholtz will also supervise tillage programs and their impact on decontamination, the implementation and further development of technologies involving the biomass sources and resulting biofuels, the storage of the decontaminated byproducts, and working conditions during the revitalization of the soil.

Greenfield and PvT plan to eventually expand their projects into Russia and Ukraine, as well. In December 2007, PvT Capital made an agreement with the government of Ukraine to develop biofuels facilities that would aid decontamination of 400,000 hectares (990,000 acres) of the country.

The 18-mile perimeter surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is still too radioactive to inhabit. At least 70,000 square miles (45 million acres) in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia are less contaminated, but still too radioactive to grow food crops. Planting biomass crops for fuel production will naturally remediate the soil more quickly than if it was left fallow.