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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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Sunday, September 03, 2006

China investing in German Biomass-to-Liquids biorefineries

China and Germany have two things in common: they are energy- intensive export- nations that are leading the transition to renewables, and their agricultural and forestry sectors generate vast amounts of biomass 'waste' that could be used to make liquid biofuels. Wood waste, corn stover, wheat straw, beet tops, rice straw... the flow is diverse and massive. Germany could get some 10% of its liquid fuel needs out of its wood waste stream alone; China might be able to make up to 35% of theirs from similar biomass.

The search has been on for the most efficient bioconversion technology that liquefies the ligno-cellulosic biomass and turns it into clean fuels and specialty biochemicals. It would be uneconomical though to build dedicated biomass-to-liquid (BTL) plants for one single dedicated biomass stream, because that would imply using dedicated plantations on dedicated land, implying high costs - whereas the elegance of BTL-technologies precisely lies in the fact that they can in principle convert any kind of biomass waste into fuel, merely using existing waste-streams. But until now, such 'multi-feedstock' BTL-plants faced two major problems: (1) the diverse origins and (2)the wide-ranging energy contents of the different kinds of biomass streams. Moreover, given low energy contents, the biomass is bulky and transporting it to one central BTL-facility would be too costly.

A decentralised system
German engineers from the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe have now found an elegant solution to these problems simply by dividing the process (called "Bioliq") into two separate stages - each carried out in a decentralised plant.
Eckhard Dinjus, director of the Institute's chemistry department, explains that in the first stage, raw biomass is converted into an intermediate high-energy density pyrolysis fuel via fast-pyrolysis (biomass brought to a moderate temperature of 500°C after which it is pyrolised by a very short steam injection, resulting in 75% liquids, 12% char and 13% gas). This fuel, called pyrolisis 'slurry' or 'bio-oil', has an energy content of 25 Gigajoules per cubic meter (compare with crude oil: 40Gj per cubic meter), which makes it much easier to transport than the primary bulky biomass with its low energy content.
This 'intermediate' bio-oil is then transported to a central facility where it is gasified and synthesised at temperatures reaching 1200°C and pressures of up to 80 bar, resulting in a tar-free 'synthetic biofuel' that can be used as a transport fuel.

Besides the synthesis-fuel that is ready to be used as a transport fuel, the bio-oil contains a whole range of basic chemicals (acids, sugars, aldehydes, esters, alcohols, ketones, phenolics, oxygenates, hydrocarbons, steroids) that can be used as building blocks for a series of commercial specialty chemicals (acetic acid, hydroxyacetaldehyde, levoglucosan, levoglucosenone, maltol...). The gas that is released during the process can be used to generate electricity to power the plants, and the biochar can be converted into fertilizers or used in power plants as a high energy density solid biofuel.
Thus, the BTL-technology is rapidly becoming one of the most promising routes towards genuine "biorefineries", resembling petro-chemical refineries and delivering liquid fuels, green chemicals and solid biofuels.

The "Bioliq" system was demonstrated in a pilot plant, proving its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Clean synthetic biofuels were produced for under 50 €urocents per liter. But Dinjus says that in countries where much more biomass waste is available, such as China, the costs would be significantly lower.

The research is supported by several German ministries, including the Ministry of agriculture and the Ministry of energy and renewables, and during Chancellor Merkel's recent visit to China, Dr Peter Fritz, director of the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe which developed the technology and his Chinese counterpart M. Chengzhong Chu, director of Zibo Treichel Industry & Trade, have signed an agreement for the technology transfer of the Bioliq system. The Chinese government estimates that, using such efficient BTL-technologies, it can derive up to 35% of its current liquid fuel needs from waste biomass streams.

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