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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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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Biomass: the miracle solution?

The European Commission's Biomass Action Plan should reduce oil imports by 8%, prevent greenhouse gas emissions of 209 million tons CO2-equivalent per year and create up to 300,000 new jobs. Too good to be true?

The Commission adopted the Biomass Action Plan on 7 December 2005. The main objective of the Action Plan is to double the use of bio-energy sources (wood, wastes, agricultural crops) in the EU's energy mix by 2010. Currently, the EU meets about 4% of its energy needs from biomass. The plan outlines 31 measures to promote biomass in heating and cooling, electricity production and transport (biofuels).

Main actions proposed include:

* new EU legislation on the use of renewable energy, including biomass for heating and cooling (2006);
* a possible revision of the biofuels directive (2006) which might set national targets for the share of biofuels and would oblige fuel suppliers to use biofuels;
* Member States national biomass action plans;
* development of an industry-led "Biofuel technology platform";
* research into second-generation biofuels.

The Commission's report states several benefits from the doubling of biomass energy:

* the share of fossil fuels in the EU's energy mix would decrease from 80% to 75% and 8% less crude oil would have to be imported. This would also have a beneficial effect on oil prices;
* greenhouse gas emissions would be 209 million tons CO2-equivalent lower per year;
* 250.000 to 300.000 jobs could be created in the agriculture and forestry sector.

The direct cost would be around 9 billion euros per year. This is equivalent to an increase of about 1.5 cents per litre of petrol and 0.1 cents per kWh of electricity, according to the report.

Three Member States (the Netherlands, Germany and the UK) already have or are preparing national biomass action plans.


The use of more biomass energy poses several challenges and faces quite a number of important obstacles:

* socio-economic:
o energy from biomass is still, in general, more expensive than the current price of fossil fuels; more technology research and development will be needed to maximise the energy output and efficiency of biomass technologies;
o as biocrops production will need more agricultural land, this might compete with the need for land used for food production and could according to some critics even lead to more hunger in the world;
* environmental:
o what will be the impact of large-scale bio-energy production on biodiversity, soil, water use and supply?
o what if the drive for biofuels in the developed world would lead to further destruction of tropical rainforest in countries like Brasil?
o although scientific studies indicate that the use of biomass is "carbon neutral", not all scientists agree. Some studies even show that conversion of natural ecosystems to energy plantations might result in more carbon emissions from the soil because of the accelerated decay of organic matter.
* public acceptance:
o as the report itself indicates there is reluctance among major energy and fuel suppliers and car and boiler manufacturers;
o there is a lack of awareness among consumers.


Green NGOs WWF, Greenpeace, BirdLife and the EEB warned the Commission to ensure that the biomass action plan "include adequate environmental and social safeguards". “If managed sustainably, bioenergy can help us to cut greenhouse gas emissions and restore degraded land,” said Ariel Brunner, BirdLife's Agriculture Policy Officer. “However, poorly managed production does little to reduce emissions and can have a devastating impact on the environment.”


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