The main focus will be on the production of biofuel, which could pave the way for FSM to become self-sufficient in the long term.
Olivier Wortel from the energy group Vital-FSM PetroCorp says a strategy to be worked out over the next few months will provide a clearer picture of what might be achieved, but he says there is every prospect of developing a modern and economically viable industry.
Presenter: Richard Ewart
Speaker: Olivier Wortel, Vital-FSM PetroCorp
WORTEL: We think so but I think the process of strategy design will bear that out, will tell us exactly where in the value train we'll be able to derive the most benefit for the country and for producers and for agents and shippers and exporters and all of the players throughout the value chain. For our purposes we know that we can provide the market for biofuel, we'll guarantee that we can buy whatever can be produced. And so in that respect we're hopeful that ultimately biofuel is going to be a solid product that we can produce and either sell domestically to the utilities here within the nation, which there are four, they're our main customers. And over time if it's working out and the market supports it, we will look at export.
EWART: How realistic do you think it would be to become effectively self-sufficient in biofuel, which would have a dramatic impact I would imagine on the state of the economy in the FSM?
WORTEL: I think it would have a dramatic effect on a whole range of economies within the nation. It's hard to project, we're still at the beginning of the process, but looking at some of the initial indications, we think it's going to be feasible. But again we're now engaged with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, actually we've engaged some coconut specialists, they've done mapping of the entire nation already with GIS technology. And now they're here to do some on the ground work and really validate the methodology and look at actual stands of coconuts in specific areas. This is going to help us really determine how much of the FSM coconut tree stock is senile, what needs to be replanted, where are the better varieties and some of these more technical details. And this will allow us to start a comprehensive campaign along with the relative agencies, government agencies and so forth, or replanting and cutting of the senile trees, and then using those trees for different purposes as identified through this process, either for lumber, for furniture, for actually for bio-waste for waste energy to actually use these old coconut trees and use them to actually create energy themselves, to burn them.
EWART: So essentially what we're talking about here is an industry that will produce a product, namely the coconut, and really nothing will be wasted? You'll use every last bit of the tree, the coconut and everything?
WORTEL: Yeah we will use every single piece of the tree either to produce energy or gain some economic advantage that is currently being underutilised. I think it's probably similar throughout the region, throughout the Pacific, the resource is there, it's just been underutilised. And we've committed resources over the next five years to reform the sector and to try to make it sustainable. And really our main objectives are number one, create this socioeconomic opportunity across the value chain, particularly at the outer island level, and number two, build a strategy that will be attractive to outside investors to help us achieve that sustainability over time.
EWART: And what you do in the Federated States of Micronesia over the next few years is that something that could be transplanted, almost literally as it were, to other Pacific countries? Could they follow this same strategy do you think?
WORTEL: I think so, most definitely, I mean the strategy itself is nothing new it's been used for years in different sectors. But I think this is the first time that it's been tailored particularly for the FSM, which is unique in terms of its political structure and geography, it's basically four countries under a national umbrella; Kosrae, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Yap. But I think this is the first time this strategy's been tailored in the region in this way to this sector in particular, and yes, it's something that will definitely be, once we're done I think it will be an excellent if nothing else case study that could certainly be replicated in terms of lessons learned, challenges and successes ultimately that could certainly be learned from and duplicated across the region, if desired.