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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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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Coconut power in the Pacific

The humble coconut, a staple of the eco- nomy in the small island nations of the South Pacific, is being viewed potentially as part of the region's solution to rising oil prices. Oil extracted from the coconut is already being used in power generation in parts of the Pacific.

But the investment needed to set up the large-scale plantations that would underpin a viable biodiesel industry will not be forthcoming without land ownership certainty, according to a new report by one of the region's leading banks. Diesel fuel is the primary energy source in the Pacific, so the sharp rise in oil prices since 2005 has had a considerable impact on the often fragile economies of the smaller states. That has prompted an increased interest in alternative energy sources, including biofuels that can be blended with diesel and other petroleum products.

Globally, much of the biofuel focus has been on the world's big producers such as Brazil, where ethanol from sugar cane plantations is widely used and 70 percent of new cars produced there can run on both ethanol and normal gasoline. But in the much smaller biofuel market of the South Pacific, coconut oil and biodiesel, rather than ethanol, is the focus. Coconut oil is extracted from copra, the dried flesh of the coconut.

While the market is small, coconut oil offers significant savings. A recent report by the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) -- which has been financing several cocodiesel projects -- found that if half of the Pacific's diesel imports were to be replaced by coconut oil, the region's average import bill would drop by 10 percent. And as we reported earlier, over the long-term, the Pacific region as a whole has a large per capita biofuel production potential.

According to the Australia and New Zealand Bank (ANZ) (comment on its biofuels market report), copra is by far the most significant crop in the Pacific islands with the potential for use in biofuels:
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Already, the oil is being used or tested by power suppliers in Vanutau, New Caledonia, Samoa and Fiji. For example, the main power supplier in Vanuatu, the French concession company Unelco, estimates that by 2010, 30 percent of its primary fuel consumption for power generators there will be based on coconut oil.

To produce that oil will require 12,000 tonnes of copra, according to recent research by the Vanuatu Commodities Marketing Board.

Parts of Vanuatu's power generation chain currently use 10 percent coconut oil, blended with diesel.

On New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands, Unelco has installed special generators that are 100 percent fueled by coconut oil.

Samoa's Electric Power Corp. is testing a blend that includes 20 percent coconut oil and the Fiji Electricity Authority also plans to use vegetable oil in its generators, according to ANZ's latest report on natural resources prospects in the Pacific.

For decades, Pacific nations have produced copra for domestic consumption and export. Vanuatu, for example, exports copra to Germany for processing into coconut oil. The region's biggest copra producer is Papua New Guinea, followed by Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Fiji. Samoa also has extensive coconut plantations.

But in most of the Pacific nations, production and processing has been at the subsistence level, ANZ says. Only a few have commercial processing capacity.

Production and processing has moved in line with global prices, which ANZ says fell to as low as $198 a tonne in 2001 before recovering to the current level of about $350 a tonne.

The Solomons and PNG also have palm oil plantations -- another agricultural commodity with rising prospects. Malaysia, the world's largest palm oil producer, expects palm oil prices to rise 10 percent by early next year in line with increased demand for biofuels.

The ANZ Bank says that while the development of a Pacific biofuels industry sounds attractive in theory, there are serious impediments, including the major one of land tenure uncertainty. In much of the Pacific, land is communally owned by traditional owners.

The bank says that resolving land-based issues would be "instrumental" in getting investment for a biofuels industry.


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