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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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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Using algae to purify biogas to NG pipeline quality

There are 10 million biogas plants in China today. There are 4 million biogas plants in India. An oil palm plantation yields 400 cubic metres of 'waste' biogas per hectare. In Pakistan, there are 1 million cars that operate on CNG and compressed biogas alike. In Sweden, the world's first biogas train is carrying passengers every day. In Europe, biogas is being fed to the main natural gas grid (here and here). In Switzerland and Germany, the first biogas stations for cars have been opened. Austria plans to have 100,000 biogas cars on the road by 2013. To streamline the booming interest, a Europe-wide biogas helpdesk has been established. Volvo has a luxury bi-fuel car that operates on biogas or CNG or gasoline.

Obviously, the green gas obtained from the anaerobic digestion of agricultural, industrial or household biomass waste is rapidly becoming an alternative to liquid biofuels, because its feedstocks are more diverse, it is slightly more efficient and cost-effective to produce, and just as renewable and clean as biodiesel or ethanol. Especially in the developing world, biogas could become the main competitor of liquid (bio)fuels, because it is very easy to produce, and does not require large facilities to take scale-advantages (contrary to biodiesel and ethanol production). Biogas forms the ideal energy carrier on which to build a decentralized energy infrastructure for vehicles.

A future scenario looks as follows: decentralised and localised biogas nodes expand and form regional networks, eventually getting interconnected with the main natural gas grid. The last step is crucial, because the bi-fuel strategy diminishes supply disruption and price volatility risks.

It is in this last step, however, that a problem emerges. In order for biogas to be mixed with natural gas, it has to be extremely pure. If the procuder wants to achieve NG pipeline quality biogas, he must remove water (H2O), hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and particulates. Carbon dioxide must get scrubbed out as well.

It is on this front that leading biogas firm Schmack Biogas AG has developed a new process to purify biogas, using micro-algae. The process is descriptively called 'Effizienzsteigerung der Biogasnutzung durch Solarenergie' (Efficiency increase of biogas use through solar energy') and points to the photosynthetic component of the algae who act as an energy enhancing element. The process is said to be both economic and sustainable, and consists of feeding raw biogas to algae who scrub out the CO2 and other impurities during their photosynthetic activity and growth. CO2 is the main pollutant of biogas and the more it gets removed, the more methane-rich and the higher its energy content becomes. The algae do the work in a highly efficient manner and are recycled as a biomass feedstock for biogas afterwards. The algae scrub the gas in such a manner that it attains the purity levels needed for it to be mixed into the natural gas grid.

Schmack Biogas carried out three successful tests using three different algae species in photobioreactors and is now creating full-scale pilot plants. As with all algae systems, photobioreactors are too expensive to be used on a grand scale, which is why Schmack Biogas is building open pond systems. Several different species will be tested again and are supposed to survive a cycle of two years in the open ponds. The question now is whether the algae cultures can be maintained in a stable condition and do not get distorted by the many potential threats from outside which they face in such ponds.

The project is supported by Germany's agency for renewable energies (Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe) and lasts until march 2008.

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