UK-based firm Sunbird Bioenergy Ltd has inked a deal with the Republic of Zimbabwe to build a 120-million-litre (31.7 million gallon) cassava-to-bioethanol plant in the African country.   
Announcing the agreement on Friday, biorefineries builder China New Energy Ltd (LON:CNEL) said it expected to shortly sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sunbird, with which it is partnering on projects in Africa. The statement was in response to erroneous media reports that China New Energy was also part of the deal with Zimbabwe's government.
Under the plans, China New Energy will design the plant and supply the key fermentation, distillation and dehydration technology. It will also commission the facility and provide ongoing support and maintenance services. To be located in Zimbabwe's Machonaland Central province, the plant will use China New Energy's proprietary cassava-to-ethanol technology.
The partners target completing the design of the project by February 2016. Financial close is expected in the first quarter of 2016 and commissioning in late 2017.
The British ambassador to Zimbabwe noted in the announcement that the signing of the deal was a follow-up of the UK-led trade delegation that visited Zimbabwe in February 2015.  
According to local media, the project is worth USD 150 million (EUR 132m), with USD 60 million to be spent on the plant and USD 90 million to be invested in an agriculture development programme.