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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, August 17, 2006

Growing algae for biofuels in the Negev desert

Earlier, we pointed out the pros and cons of algae-derived biofuels. Meanwhile Israeli scientists - well acquainted with the energy-producing capacity of algae - are applying their knowledge to the technology as well. Algatech in the southern Negev is turning a collective focus towards biofuels made from the colorful micro-organisms.

Over 150 species of algae are currently used commercially to provide food for humans and livestock, serve as thickening agents in ice cream and shampoo, and ward off disease in pharmaceutical drug form. Unaltered, algae encompass different groups of living organisms that capture energy through photosynthesis, converting inorganic substances into simple sugars.

Founded in 1999 to develop and commercialize micro-algae-derived products for the nutraceutical and cosmeceutical industries, Algatech's 25-strong production facility based in Kibbutz Ketura will soon begin collaborating with Israeli-US start-up GreenFuel Technologies Corporation to work towards a common goal: developing cost effective, energy efficient fuel made from micro-algae feeding off of carbon dioxide emissions.

"The biofuel concept is old," Algatech Research and Development head Dr. Amir Drory, says. "It started in the 60s and 70s when people started to look for alternatives. The area caught our attention a long time ago but this was not our major activity or research direction."

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, GreenFuel is manned by a thirty-person workforce developing algae bio-reactor systems that convert carbon dioxide or smokestack emissions into clean, renewable biofuels. The company was founded by Isaac Berzin, an Israeli industrial bio-engineer principally responsible for patenting GreenFuel's approach to efficiently propagating algae on an industrial scale.

Algatech and GreenFuel have been in discussion for at least a year, both sides recognizing that a partnership in which one side provides the algae while the other provides technology for turning it into fuel is a complimentary fit. So complementary, in fact, that in June the Israel-US Bi-National Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD) issued the parties a collective co-research grant:

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"This is a project where the technology has its own merit independent of the area," BIRD Executive Director Eitan Yudilevich, PhD says. "The partnership is very interesting between a US startup and Israeli company. Many times it's the opposite. When you look at a reason for giving a partnership grant you also look at synergy and theirs is great."

BIRD's board of governors issues grants twice annually to approximately twenty-five Israel-America collaborations and while individual funding details are confidential, overall policy allows for a maximum $1 million capital investment. Commercialization is an expected outcome and BIRD's track record thus far has been successful. Former grantees currently traded on Wall Street include Scitex, Compugen, Elbit and Magic Software.

"From a technology point-of-view, there is no question that using algae to produce ethanol from CO2 is innovative," Yudilevich explains. "These guys have been doing work for more than a couple of years and already have investors that believe in the product."

The product, in this case, is a micro or single cell alga cultivated by Algatech using an optimization and screening process. Made up of lipids, starches and carbs -- nature's basic building blocks or the stuff we eat -- algae goes from starch or sugar form through fermentation to alcohol and protein where it can be eaten or burned.

The major tasks facing Algatech and GreenFuel are culturing the algae, optimizing the process and keeping costs low as compared with conventional fuel or other bio-fuels already on the market.

"We'll make it cost effective," GreenFuel CEO Cary Bullock said. "In the past you couldn?t grow the algae fast enough to justify the cost of building the plant. But with growing improvements and weighing the costs of producing a refined fuel derived from putting a refinery next to a major carbon source, the benefit is dramatic. You knock out the costs of producing, importing, refining and shipping and you're simultaneously reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere."

Bullock says there is a fair amount of power plant land in Australia, the US and Western Europe ideal for bio-diesel and ethanol production and notes that ethanol blended gasoline necessitates little to no engine modification. With government incentives such as tax credit subsidies, accelerated depreciation and credits offered to blenders on a per-gallon of ethanol blended fuel basis, it would seem the CO2 derived algae bio-fuel is already seamless.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Bullock cautions albeit optimistically. "It seems too easy because you intuit the process at a high level. But on a basic level, it's very hard. You're working with micro-organisms that not a huge body of research is available on."

Which is part of the reason GreenFuel and Algatech teamed up. Israel has been at the forefront of algae research for years, cultivating, developing and studying different strains of microalgae under ideal climate conditions. Algae can be grown in a wide range of regions, including temperate zones such as Europe, but the Negev desert setting is ideal.

Scientists on both fronts are eager to begin active collaboration expected to extend two to three years and both Drory and Bullock estimate they'll have product to market within the coming decade. Governments and industrialists in the U. and Europe are already watching.

Will shortage be a future factor with which to contend?

"There are about 30,000 species of micro-algae - mostly unexplored," Drory summarizes. "The reserve of micro-algae is huge - it's the same as fungi decades ago before they started looking into antibiotics. We won't face a shortage. We just have to invest money and effort to find very interesting micro-algae to work with."

Israel21C: Israeli technology derives bio-fuel from algae - August 13, 2006


Dovish said...

Nope. Don't much care for liquid fuels if they're just going to be burned in internal combustion engines, even a relatively more efficient one like a diesel.

Algae is preferable to soil stip mining but IIRC requires a concentrated source of CO2. Figure out a way to get it from the atmosphere or don't get it all.

I prefer electrons straight to batteries. Or maybe SOFC's or DCFC's.

Bio-refineries, of course, are highly preferable to the fossil fuel kind if what you want are down-stream products like plastics and fertilizers. Just don't strip mine the soil and if you need CO2 get it from the atmosphere or the oceans.

8:37 PM  
afrodiesel said...

If I understand it correctly, the algae would be grown near fossil fuel plants. They suck up the CO2 from the plants, before it enters the atmosphere. So in a sense you're getting it 'out'.
When the algae-derive biofuel is then burned in a combustion engine, the CO2 that is released does enter the atmosphere. But for the same amount of CO2, we now have twice the amount of energy (one stream of energy from operating the coal plant, one stream from the biofuel).
You simply make use of the CO2 before it enters the air.
So you effectively capture it.

No need to take it out of the atmosphere. Unless you're talking about radical strategies to go carbon-negative. But that's another story.

3:37 AM  

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