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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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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Biofuels in Africa might dethrone oil - interview

With the Middle East crisis sending oil through the roof, the prospect of actively using biofuels is becoming the reality of the day in South Africa. Some people are even beginning to imagine that the entire African continent might be the first to dethrone oil alltogether, and entirely switch to biodiesel, ethanol, biobutanol, biomass and biogas. Petroleum is becoming more a burden than a blessing, and if Africa wants to develop, it will need abundant energy that's cheaper than oil.

iAfrica's The World At Six features an interview with First National Bank's head of agriculture, Ernst Janovsky, and he enlightens us on the chance for Africa to bet on biofuels.

Just a few days of renewed tension in the Middle East, the oil prices climbed way over $75 a barrel and it was $78 first thing this morning. It has eased back slightly though, and the effect for the petrol price for local consumers looks a little bit bleak.

And as you have heard a couple of our guests, already suggesting that there is a risk that consistently rising petrol price will lead to increasing inflation. So where does that leave biofuels? Fuel produced by the agricultural sector, fuel that is renewable and fuel that can be grown. Can it help to provide materially for our petrol needs, I wonder. And we are joined by First National Bank's head of agriculture, Ernst Janovsky, talking to us from Johannesburg. Ernst a very good evening to you and welcome. Oil over $70 a barrel that has to be good news for biofuel?

The following is a transcript of the interview:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Ernst Janovsky:
Yes, of course it is good news for Biofuel. It gives you an opportunity that the market is actually moving closer to your breakeven points. So it is actually quite a nice incentive for the development of biofuel products in South Africa itself.

Chris Gibbons:
Every cloud has a silver lining. What does our biofuel look like? It is very young, isn’t it?

Ernst Janovsky:
It is still in its infant stages, it is just starting off. Chris if you look at what has been happening, the first ethanol plant has just been developed now for the Bothaville area. There are one or two small biodiesel plants, which has already been created in the Bethal areas. So there is a little bit of movement, but it is still early days for that and the reason for it being that is the oil price is not actually coming to the market yet or the breakeven points have not yet been acknowledged.

Chris Gibbons:
Are you telling me that we need oil higher than $70 a barrel for this thing to be worthwhile?

Ernst Janovsky:
It is just on breakeven, or very close to breakeven. If you take a maize price of R1200 a ton currently and you say, about 2.5 tons of maize is needed for a thousand litres of ethanol, and then it basically works out at almost R4, which you put into your input price of the fuel, which a little bit higher than the current fuel price. If you work on two, it basically comes down to your current fuel price of R3, R3.20, R3.40 or thereabout and that just states that you can actually start bringing in biofuels currently into the market and it will start taking off. Yes.

Chris Gibbons:
What is needed from government to allow the biofuels industry to become operational?

Ernst Janovsky:
As I stated, because of the fuel price not being higher enough to come to the market of biofuels itself, especially the ethanol itself, you will find that from governments point of view, you will actually have to force the petroleum industry to actually take your ethanol out of the market, in other words, force ethanol into the system by saying you have got to need an inclusion of X percentage into your normal fossil fuels, to actually get the market to actually work.

Anything above $80 to $90 you will see that the market will actually start coming to the ethanol and say give me ethanol because it is becoming cheaper. At the current rate, it is still not cheap enough to include ethanol. But we are at that breaking point currently.

Chris Gibbons:
Two important considerations, it is renewable, because you can grow another crop next year and the year after that. I understand it is also cleaner?

Ernst Janovsky:
If you really take the carbon cycle, because that is where the cleanness comes in, every litre of fossil fuel you are burning, you are putting additional carbon dioxide into the air. If you actually start using renewable fuels, what happens is the plant actually takes the carbon out of the air, due to sunlight and photosynthesis and actually creates energy with it. And as soon as you burn it again, in terms of ethanol, you actually reduce that. So in principal what we are saying is that the carbon dioxide cycle, is the same amount of carbon dioxide that keeps on circulating.

Chris Gibbons:
I presume that the two affect a third important point effect and that is the relief of the mielie boere (farmer).

Ernst Janovsky:
Yes, that is where the biggest market opportunity lies and that is creating a new market for the maize industry, in the sense that you now have the off take agreements and new markets for it. And this is especially true, as South Africa is an export producer of maize, or a surplus producer of maize.

Chris Gibbons:
Very interesting indeed, I have to say that I hope oil does not get to $80 or $90 a barrel. But when it does, I have no doubt that we will be putting ethanol in.


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