Watkin to quit chair at D1 Oils

North entrepreneur Karl Watkin is to step down as chairman of D1 Oils after revealing that the Middlesbrough-based green fuel producer has already created more than 220,000 jobs.

Karl Watkin

North entrepreneur Karl Watkin is to step down as chairman of D1 Oils after revealing that the Middlesbrough-based green fuel producer has already created more than 220,000 jobs.

Mr Watkin, who founded the company six years ago, will remain as a non-executive director but will be replaced as chairman in early 2007 by former Shell chairman Lord Oxburgh.

The entrepreneur said: "I am stepping down because I think the business has moved on and I am a guy who starts businesses and gets them going.

"D1 is firmly established, it's not just a vision any more it's a real business and it needs someone who is more blue chip than I am to take the business forward. I identified Lord Oxburgh six months ago as the ideal man for the job and I'm gobsmacked he has come on board. He will do more for the business than I possibly can. He will make a huge difference."

Lord Oxburgh, 74, was non-executive chairman of Shell Transport and Trading from 2004 to 2005, is a former chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence and has taken a leading role in environmental technologies.

He said: "What D1 is doing to pioneer biodiesel feedstocks from inedible oil crops grown in developing countries has, I believe, real potential to deliver tremendous economic, social and environmental benefits".

Yesterday's announcement was made as D1 revealed interim losses had grown from £3.5m to £4.7m in the six months to June 30 with turnover static at £32,000.

The company said the extended losses reflected "significant progress" made in the half-year in its plan to create an `earth-to-engine' network of plantations and refineries to make its biodiesel - a blend of conventional diesel and vegetable oil from the jatropha plant - which cuts carbon emissions by up to 80%.

Since the start of the year, D1 has boosted its plantation programme by 68,000 hectares to 110,000 hectares in India, southern Africa, south-east Asia and China. The company says the equivalent of at least two jobs will be created per hectare of jatropha planted, mainly on non-arable land in developing countries, adding up to 220,000 jobs so far.

Mr Watkin said: "I honestly believe that is more than the rest of the UN has done in the last 12 months."

D1 said teething troubles with its refineries in Middlesbrough had been ironed out and the technology improved so the units were now operating at 106% of their original predicted capacity.

The company has spent £3m on acquiring a second production site on Merseyside and predicts it will be producing up to 420,000 tonnes of fuel per year by the end of 2008.

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