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    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2007.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2007.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2007.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2007.

    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2007.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2007.

    Austrian bioenergy group Cycleenergy acquired controlling interest in Greenpower Projektentwicklungs GmbH, expanding its biomass operational portfolio by 16 MW to a total of 22 MW. In the transaction Cycleenergy took over 51% of the company and thereby formed a joint venture with Porr Infrastruktur GmbH, a subsidiary of Austrian construction company Porr AG. Greenpower operates two wood chip CHP facilities in Upper and Lower Austria, each with an electric capacity of 2 MW. The plants have been in operation since the middle of last year and consume more than 30,000 tonnes of wood chips and are expected to generate over €5 million in additional revenue. Cycleenergy - February 6, 2007.

    The 2008 edition of Bioenergy World Europe will take place in Verona, Italy, from 7 to 10 February. Gathering a broad range of international exhibitors covering gaseous, liquid and solid bioenergy, the event aims to offer participants the possibility of developing their business through meetings with professionals, thematic study tours and an international forum focusing on market and regulatory issues, as well as industry expertise. Bioenergy World Europe - February 5, 2007.

    The World GTL Summit will take place between 12 – 14th May 2008 in London. Key topics to be discussed include: the true value of Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) projects, well-to-wheels analyses of the GTL value chain; construction, logistics and procurement challenges; the future for small-scale Fischer-Tropsch (FT) projects; Technology, economics, politics and logistics of Coal-to-Liquids (CTL); latest Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) commercialisation initiatives. CWC Exhibitions - February 4, 2007.

    The 4th Annual Brussels Climate Change Conference is announced for 26 - 27 February 2008. This joint CEPS/Epsilon conference will explore the key issues for a post-Kyoto agreement on climate change. The conference focuses on EU and global issues relating to global warming, and in particular looks at the following issues: - Post-2012 after Bali and before the Hokkaido G8 summit; Progress of EU integrated energy and climate package, burden-sharing renewables and technology; EU Emissions Trading Review with a focus on investment; Transport Climatepolicy.eu - January 28, 2007.

    Japan's Marubeni Corp. plans to begin importing a bioethanol compound from Brazil for use in biogasoline sold by petroleum wholesalers in Japan. The trading firm will import ETBE, which is synthesized from petroleum products and ethanol derived from sugar cane. The compound will be purchased from Brazilian petrochemical company Companhia Petroquimica do Sul and in February, Marubeni will supply 6,500 kilolitres of the ETBE, worth around US$7 million, to a biogasoline group made up of petroleum wholesalers. Wholesalers have been introducing biofuels since last April by mixing 7 per cent ETBE into gasoline. Plans call for 840 million liters of ETBE to be procured annually from domestic and foreign suppliers by 2010. Trading Markets - January 24, 2007.

    Toyota Tsusho Corp., Ohta Oil Mill Co. and Toyota Chemical Engineering Co., say it and two other firms have jointly developed a technology to produce biodiesel fuel at lower cost. Biodiesel is made by blending methanol into plant-derived oil. The new technology requires smaller amounts of methanol and alkali catalysts than conventional technologies. In addition, the new technology makes water removal facilities unnecessary. JCN Network - January 22, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Paper and SWISS COMBI - W. Kunz dryTec A.G. have entered a licence agreement for the SWISS COMBI belt dryer KUVO, which allows biomass to be dried in a low temperature environment and at high capacity, both for pulp & paper and bioenergy applications. Kauppalehti - January 22, 2007.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Turning pest into profit: bioenergy from water hyacinth

Water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) is a beautiful plant, but is considered to be one of the world's most destructive and unbeatable weeds. It clogs up rivers, hydroelectric plants, waterways and entire lakes, killing aquatic life, hampering river transport and fisheries, endangering the livelihoods of millions of poor people in the tropics.
According to a study produced by the World Conservation Council (IUCN), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the water hyacinth is now the world's most destructive pest, costing billions of dollars in damages each year.

Due to its ferocious biomass growth rate (up to 17 tonnes per hectare per day, doubling its biomass each week!), it colonizes water bodies in a matter of days, laying immense and dense carpets of flowers over the water. One flower produces up to 1000 new plants in under 50 days...

Originating from South America, the water hyacinth is now found in all major tropical rivers and lakes of the world. There's a long history of attempts to control the species, from mechanical destruction over manual harvesting, to, more recently, biological control through a species of beetle which lays its eggs in the plant on which those eggs feed. One colonial administrator working in the Belgian Congo, tasked with coordinating a grand campaign to destroy the hyacinth, even wrote a bizarre autobiographical novel about it (Congo Ya Sika), narrating his encounters with crocodiles, cannibals and Congolese curses while trying to battle the flower (a battle he lost, by the way.)

In short: water hyacinth is a major problem in the tropics, and it produces a lot of nasty biomass.

Could it be used as a bioenergy and biofuels feedstock perhaps? Indeed, it could:

First of all, let's see how creative people are and how they are making the best of the pest that seems to be indestructible.

People have experimented with using the water hyacinth as a substrate for mushroom production. This seems to work for a wide variety of mushrooms (e.g., oyster mushrooms), and the plant offers a high biological conversion efficiency.

Others claim it makes for an excellent bio-fertilizer: water hyacinth biomass accumulates a great amount of inorganic mineral nutrients necessary for other plants. When its biomass is pelleted together with local rock phosphates, it seems like it makes a good fertilizer. Some say its use will reduce over-dependence on imported fertilizers, promote agricultural productivity and profitability, and enhance food security for several regions that suffer under water hyacinth invasion.

More recently, smart small African entrepreneurs have started making beautiful pieces of furniture from it. When compressed and dried, the hyacinth's fibrous stalks generate soft but strong fibres, which can be used for manufacturing paper, mats, and various categories of domestic furniture. Check out these nice examples.

Sewage and biological waste-water treatment: by virtue of its high photosynthetic efficiency, with the associated photosynthetic oxygen production, water hyacinth has great potential for use in sewage treatment. Water hyacinth absorbs nutrients voraciously and enhances evaporation through transpiration. Growing water hyacinth in effluent streams has proved to be a successful treatment technology.

For more on some of these uses, check out the Swedish Development Agency's report [*.pdf] on utilisation and control of Water Hyacinths.

Now let's get to where things interest us. Biogas production. Water hyacinth's abundant biomass can be used to produce renewable energy locally, simply fermenting it in anaerobic digester.

Biogas production from manure and from sewage and agricultural wastestreams has been studied well. For water hyacinth, the literature is scarce, but some (such as this one, this one [*.pdf], and another one by the FAO) exist and they suggest the weed to make for a great biogas feedstock.

Some conclusions:

1. the total amount of gas produced from Water hyacinth is about one and a- half time higher than the Cow dung per gm volatile solid.

2. a blend of Water hyacinth and Cow dung in the ratio of 2:3 by weight is most suitable for biogas production.

3. Addition of very little amount of lower volatile fatty acid particularly acetic acid facilitates the gas production. This finding is very helpful for projects at the village level, where farmers often use biogas plants. In many villages all over the tropics, farmers produce sugar (from many different plants such as palm sugar, coconut, sugar cane or other local plants). If the leftover of the process of making sugar juice is kept for fermentation for a few days the content will be highly rich in acetic acid. The addition of this left over would circumvent the problem of lower gas production during the colder nights and biogas plants could run successfully during all the seasons.

4. The rate of production of biogas from Water hyacinth is higher as compared to Cow dung slurry. However, the fermentation process takes a longer time period in the case of Water hyacinth. The kinetic studies performed with Water hyacinth + inocculum show that gas production rate increases twelve times in a very short period of five days in comparison to Cow dung + Water hyacinth (20 – 40 days) systems.

5. The digested slurry can be used as useful chemical free eco-friendly fertilizer.

We can imagine many local farmers in the tropics benefiting from using this abundant resource. Harvesting the crop might be labor or energy intensive, but this cost is offset by the fact that a major pest is destroyed while at the same time yielding energy. Most of the poor countries where the hyacinth is a major problem, do not have the funds to launch targetted control campaigns. So it might be crucial to introduce basic biogas technology to places where the weed destroys fish stocks, clogs up water ways or threatens small hydroplants. That way, investments in removing the weed become more economic.

This is just a first exploration of the use of water hyacinth as a bioenergy feedstock. Here at the BioPact we try explore bioenergy in the tropics in all its forms. Access to energy for the poor is one of our priorities. We think this case of turning a pest into profit, is worth looking into further.

Laurens Rademakers


Blogger C. Van Milligen said...

We worked on a project to produce methane from water hyacinth on Lake Victoria a few years ago. It looked very promising with 400 tons per day being harvested from the lake for our digesters.
The Kenyan government repeated placed liens on our equipment under the assumption that we had unlimited funds available to pay them off. Eventually the well ran dry and we had to quit the project.
Malawi has expressed a strong interest in seeing the same project on Lake Malawi but they have no funds available.
The electricity which could be produced from harvested hyacinths is substantial and could greatly benefit the local economy.
C. Van Milligen
Kentucky Enrichment Inc
[email protected]

4:48 AM  
Anonymous Nishant Francis said...

Hi Van,

I'm Nishant Francis. I work for a bank in Cochin,Kerala, India. From your article/activity I understand that your experience should help me. I am from a place where there are large number of water bodies which has abundant growth of Water Hyacinth in them. Kerala also has a large number of Hotels as this is among the major tourist destinations in India. I have plans to set up a Biogas Plant run from Water Hyacinth as raw material.If successful I should be able to start a constant supply of Biogas to Hotels. Kindly guide me on the type of project you've undertaken and other details which I should get involved with.

My Mail ID is [email protected]



11:26 AM  
Blogger John in Joburg said...

1) In the opening commentary Biopact referred to the large costs which are incurred in dealing with water hyacinth. Presumably this refers to avoidance of damage to plant & equipment? Can Biopact identify the operational entities which are currently incurring these quantified costs?

2) Does Biopact have a typical analysis of water hyacinth as-harvested. Especially:
a) Moisture content? I guess over 80%.
Then (on a dry basis):
b) bio-oil content?
c) ligno-cellulosic content?
d) inorganics?
e) other?

3) Does Biopact have a way to establish costs of harvesting?
Assume a processing plant can be established close to an infected water-body which is big enough to ensure a permanent source of hyacinth for, say 10 years, at a harvesting rate big enough to generate, say, a million tons per year of wet biomass. (Would this be about 200thousand tpa of dry equivalent?) Then what would the economics look like to get the biomass to a processing plant?

4) Does Biopact have access to experimental quantities of water hyacinth for prototyping of treatment processes?

Commentary and advice welcome.

7:51 AM  

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