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    Spanish company Ferry Group is to invest €42/US$55.2 million in a project for the production of biomass fuel pellets in Bulgaria. The 3-year project consists of establishing plantations of paulownia trees near the city of Tran. Paulownia is a fast-growing tree used for the commercial production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Hungary's BHD Hõerõmû Zrt. is to build a 35 billion Forint (€138/US$182 million) commercial biomass-fired power plant with a maximum output of 49.9 MW in Szerencs (northeast Hungary). Portfolio.hu - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Tonight at 9pm, BBC Two will be showing a program on geo-engineering techniques to 'save' the planet from global warming. Five of the world's top scientists propose five radical scientific inventions which could stop climate change dead in its tracks. The ideas include: a giant sunshade in space to filter out the sun's rays and help cool us down; forests of artificial trees that would breath in carbon dioxide and stop the green house effect and a fleet futuristic yachts that will shoot salt water into the clouds thickening them and cooling the planet. BBC News - Feb. 19, 2007.

    Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Indonesia with Wilmar International Ltd. this year and a wholly owned biodiesel plant in Brazil before July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The Brazil plant is expected to be the nation's largest, the paper said. Worldwide, the company projects a fourfold rise in biodiesel production over the next five years. ADM was not immediately available to comment. Reuters - Feb. 16, 2007.

    Finnish engineering firm Pöyry Oyj has been awarded contracts by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. to provide services for the first bioethanol plant in the Philippines. The aggregate contract value is EUR 10 million. The plant is to be build in the Province of San Carlos on the north-eastern tip of Negros Island. The plant is expected to deliver 120,000 liters/day of bioethanol and 4 MW of excess power to the grid. Kauppalehti Online - Feb. 15, 2007.

    In order to reduce fuel costs, a Mukono-based flower farm which exports to Europe, is building its own biodiesel plant, based on using Jatropha curcas seeds. It estimates the fuel will cut production costs by up to 20%. New Vision (Kampala, Uganda) - Feb. 12, 2007.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to use 10% biodiesel in its fleet of public buses. The world's largest city is served by the Toei Bus System, which is used by some 570,000 people daily. Digital World Tokyo - Feb. 12, 2007.

    Fearing lack of electricity supply in South Africa and a price tag on CO2, WSP Group SA is investing in a biomass power plant that will replace coal in the Letaba Citrus juicing plant which is located in Tzaneen. Mining Weekly - Feb. 8, 2007.

    In what it calls an important addition to its global R&D capabilities, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is to build a new bioenergy research center in Hamburg, Germany. World Grain - Feb. 5, 2007.

    EthaBlog's Henrique Oliveira interviews leading Brazilian biofuels consultant Marcelo Coelho who offers insights into the (foreign) investment dynamics in the sector, the history of Brazilian ethanol and the relationship between oil price trends and biofuels. EthaBlog - Feb. 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has announced its renewable energy target: 12% of all energy should come from renewables by 2020. The plan is expected to revitalise Taiwan's agricultural sector and to boost its nascent biomass industry. China Post - Feb. 2, 2007.

    Production at Cantarell, the world's second biggest oil field, declined by 500,000 barrels or 25% last year. This virtual collapse is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos. Wall Street Journal - Jan. 30, 2007.

    Dubai-based and AIM listed Teejori Ltd. has entered into an agreement to invest €6 million to acquire a 16.7% interest in Bekon, which developed two proprietary technologies enabling dry-fermentation of biomass. Both technologies allow it to design, establish and operate biogas plants in a highly efficient way. Dry-Fermentation offers significant advantages to the existing widely used wet fermentation process of converting biomass to biogas. Ame Info - Jan. 22, 2007.

    Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is to build a biofuel production plant in the tribal belt of Banswara, Rajasthan, India. The petroleum company has acquired 20,000 hectares of low value land in the district, which it plans to commit to growing jatropha and other biofuel crops. The company's chairman said HPCL was also looking for similar wasteland in the state of Chhattisgarh. Zee News - Jan. 15, 2007.

    The Zimbabwean national police begins planting jatropha for a pilot project that must result in a daily production of 1000 liters of biodiesel. The Herald (Harare), Via AllAfrica - Jan. 12, 2007.

    In order to meet its Kyoto obligations and to cut dependence on oil, Japan has started importing biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. And even though the country has limited local bioenergy potential, its Agriculture Ministry will begin a search for natural resources, including farm products and their residues, that can be used to make biofuels in Japan. To this end, studies will be conducted at 900 locations nationwide over a three-year period. The Japan Times - Jan. 12, 2007.

    Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched an arrogant attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their attitudes to global warming, calling the Stern Review 'dubious'. The remarks illustrate the yawning gap between opinions on climate change among Europeans and Americans, but they also strengthen the view that announcements by US car makers and legislators about the development of green vehicles are nothing more than window dressing. Today, the EU announced its comprehensive energy policy for the 21st century, with climate change at the center of it. BBC News - Jan. 10, 2007.

    The new Canadian government is investing $840,000 into BioMatera Inc. a biotech company that develops industrial biopolymers (such as PHA) that have wide-scale applications in the plastics, farmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plant-based biopolymers such as PHA are biodegradable and renewable. Government of Canada - Jan. 9, 2007.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Biorefineries - they're just like petroleum refineries, or are they?

The concept of "biorefineries" is key to a viable bioenergy future. To put it in simple terms, it comes down to using all the raw products of a basic biomass feedstock stream - including the lignocellulose - , and processing them into high value specialty chemicals, such as bioplastics and of course the biofuels themselves. A biorefinery would be very similar to how the petrochemical industry works today. It starts out from the easy-to-extract parts of the feedstock (crude oil, crude biomass such as the starch in maize grains), but cracks the more difficult parts as well. "Cellulose ethanol" is one of the results and it is gaining attention as the first in this series of "second generation" biofuels.

The American National Renewable Energy Laboratory has a neat introduction to the concept of the bio-refinery, and Iowa's State University devotes a conference to the idea. It suggests the Midwest could someday replace the Middle East as the center of energy production if researchers can develop plants that more readily convert their leaves, stalks and other fibers into energy and biobased products.

Iowa State University's Plant Sciences Institute is launching research to alter lignocellulosic materials to make conversion easier and more cost-effective. The institute is hosting a one-day conference that will bring together experts to explore the possibilities that plant breeding, chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology can bring to the challenge.

"Tailoring Lignocellulosic Feedstocks for Bioenergy and Biobased Products" will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Monday, May 16, in the Gallery, Memorial Union. The conference is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

The conference will feature discussions on the status of producing bioenergy and biobased products from lignocellulose, and the opportunities for improvement through plant breeding and plant science approaches.

One session will feature Maurice Hladik, director of marketing for Iogen Corporation, Ottawa, Canada. Iogen is the leading biotechnology firm specializing in cellulose-derived ethanol and the only commercial facility operating in North America. Hladik will present an industry perspective in his talk, "Cellulose Ethanol Is Ready to Go."

Other speakers and topics include:

* "Biobased Industries, the Vision Revisited" -- Don Johnson, Grain Processing Corporation (retired), Hertford, N.C.

* "Progress, Challenges and Opportunities for Biological Conversion of Lignocellulosic Biomass" -- Charles Wyman, Paul E. and Joan H. Queneau Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering Design, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.

* "Composition of Herbaceous Biomass Crops and Potential Influence on Conversion to Bioenergy and Bioproducts" -- Hans-Joachim Jung, U. S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), Plant Science Research Unit, St. Paul, Minn.

* "Breeding Perennial and Annual Grasses for Bioenergy and Biobased Products" -- Ken Vogel, USDA-ARS, Wheat, Sorghum and Forage Research Unit, Lincoln, Neb.

* "Genetic Dissection of Cell Wall Synthesis and Function" -- Chris Somerville, professor of biological sciences, Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.

* "Phenylpropanoid Mutants of Arabidopsis: Rewriting the Lignin Biosynthetic Pathway" -- Clint Chapple, professor of biochemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.

* "Biomass Recalcitrance: The Key Hurdle for the Lignocellulosic Biorefinery" -- Mike Himmel, principal scientist, National Renewable Energy Lab, Golden, Colo.

The conference is sponsored by Iowa State's Plant Sciences Institute, College of Agriculture and Center for Crops Utilization Research. For additional information and to register, go to www.ag.iastate.edu/centers/ccur/lignocellulose/home.htm, or call Darren Jarboe, (515) 294-2342.

The Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State University is dedicated to becoming one of the world's leading plant science research institutes. More than 200 faculty from the College of Agriculture, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the College of Engineering conduct research in nine centers of the institute. They seek fundamental knowledge about plant systems to help feed the growing world population, strengthen human health and nutrition, improve crop quality and yield, foster environmental sustainability and expand the uses of plants for biobased products and bioenergy. The institute is supported through public and private funding.



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