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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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Friday, July 14, 2006

Crop residues: how much biomass energy is out there?

Recent news about a Vietnamese company that will be using fat catfish waste to turn it into biodiesel fuel, or about Brazil's coffee farmers who will be using 25% of their entire harvest as a feedstock for biofuels (because 25% of the beans are low quality and considered to be "waste"), focuses attention on the messy streams of waste-biomass that are out there and that can be used as a source of energy.

Such waste-streams can be converted into many different types of biofuels, based on a variety of conversion processes, resulting either in biogas, biohydrogen, liquid biofuels (first generation or second generation biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol), or solid biofuels (densified into easily transportable bio-pellets and briquettes) to be used in biomass co-firing or combustion systems.

But just how much biomass waste are we talking about? And how much energy does it contain? There are many different categories from countless industries. The most obvious category is that of agro-forestry residues, but there's also household waste, residues from cattle and dairy farming, and from a whole range of industrial processes (from paper production to abbatoir waste and wood products manufacturing). It is very difficult to assess the actual amount of biomass that literally goes to waste from all these processes on this planet.

But several attempts have been made, and we highlight just one of those. The FAO produced a meta-study about residues from commonly cultivated crops (excluding forestry), based on 12 pre-existing studies. And these are the results:

RPR = residue-to-product ratio (for each ton of produce, the RPR indicates the amount of residue that becomes available)
LVH = lower heating value - ranges differ considerably; higher heating value was not included
Production = millions of metric tons, calculated by multiplying the production of an agricultural product (e.g. rice) by its RPR
Potential = production times LVH

These are the waste streams from only one category of residues, as they exist on this planet today, anno 2006. In total they contain between a minimum 25 and maximum 176 exajoules of energy. Consider that the entire world currently consumes roughly 440 exajoules of energy (from all sources: coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear and renewables), and one understands that biomass holds great potential. Moreover, new bioconversion technologies, such as the enzymatic conversion of ligno-cellulose into sugars that can be fermented into ethanol, promise to become the most cost-effective technology for the production of liquid biofuels from these biomass residues.
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

It must be said that the above numbers do not reflect the local consumption (for fibre, fodder and fertilizer) of those residues. This consumption currently ranges between 10 and 30%, depending on the crop and the location. Moreover, some of the crops require a fraction of the biomass to be returned to the field, to maintain fertility, whereas other residue streams can be used without that requirement.

More information:
:: FAO: Agricultural and Forest Residues - Generation, Utilization and Availability [*.pdf]
:: IEA Bioenergy Task 40: A quickscan of global bio-energy potentials to 2050
:: IEA Bioenergy Task 40: International bioenergy transport costs and energy balance
:: Joanneum Research(Austria): Next steps in co-firing biomass including transportation [*.pdf], considers international biomass residue trade.
:: University of Utrecht, Dpt. of Chemistry: Biotrade: International trade in renewable energy from biomass
:: K Ericsson, LJ Nilsson - Biomass and Bioenergy, 2004: International Biofuel Trade - A Study of Swedish Imports
:: FAO: Biomass Briquetting - International Workshop - RWEDP Report No.23, 1996
:: Bio-pellets, bio-briquettes: An International Forum Connecting People with Hands-On Solutions to World Poverty: Briquetting: An Answer to Desertification, Health Problems, Unemployment and Reforestation in Developing Communities [*.pdf]


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