Case Study: Omega Green Biofuel Refinery, Paraguay

18 Mar, 2022

Safe Landing members were involved in this project and helped draft the final report titled “Producing fuel for other people’s planes: A case study on the Omega Green Biofuel refinery in Paraguay” which was commissioned by the Stay Grounded Network and authored by Heñói, a human rights organisation based in Paraguay. 

Omega Green will be one of the largest biofuel refineries in the world and the first of its kind in South America. The refinery will not serve Paraguay’s own energy needs: it is set to produce primarily aviation biofuels, while Paraguay is the lowest emitter of CO₂ by air transport in South America and simultaneously ranked as the most vulnerable country in South America to impacts from the climate crisis. Most of the aviation fuel produced by this facility will be purchased by BP and Shell, for use in the US and Europe.

The Paraguayan Chaco region already suffers from one of the highest deforestation rates in the world – in 2020, 40% of natural forest cover has been lost – by 2030, 70% will be gone. The Omega Green Biofuel refinery is highly likely to exacerbate this destruction.

As aviation workers, it’s vital that we open our eyes to the reality of “Sustainable Aviation Fuel”. We shouldn’t promote solutions that are marketed as “green”, but actually perpetuate climate change, environmental destruction, pollution and local injustices in other parts of the world. The report shows the impacts of aviation biofuels on the Santa Rosa community, their livelihoods and the ecosystems in Paraguay.

Biofuels and especially biofuels for aviation satisfy the demand of a global minority, while the demand in Paraguay itself is extremely low. Omega Green, like all extractive projects, brings more destruction, pain and extinction to our people. The project is dominated by interest and profits of big foreign investors and businesses, while threatening local ecosystems and impoverishing and sickening the peasant and indigenous population,” urges Inés Franceschelli, co-author of the case study and researcher at Heñói.

The biofuel production will come at the cost of healthy ecosystems, access to land, a sufficient food supply and the livelihoods of the local population. “The input from monoculture plantations of soy and pongamia, as well as animal fats will bolster illegal deforestation, boost the unsustainable beef export industry, minimize the possible arable land to grow food, contaminate the surface and groundwater with pesticides and include violations of the rights of indigenous peoples,” warns Coraina de la Plaza at Global Forest Coalition.

At Safe Landing, we reject the use of the term “Sustainable Aviation Fuel” when used as a cover-all for anything that isn’t fossil jet fuel, as it implies that any such fuel is by definition ‘sustainable’. That is: we can continue to use large quantities indefinitely without incurring any environmental or social impacts. In many cases, alternative fuels such as biofuels have similar, if not worse, impacts – and the Omega Biofuel refinery is case in point. 

The full report can be found here: https://stay-grounded.org/agrofuel-case-study/

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