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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 20, 2006

Fiat develops bi-fuel and tri-fuel cars suitable for developing world

We have hinted many times at the attractiveness of biogas (methane) as a car fuel for the developing world. It is in the Global South that the future of mobility is determined. From today until 2030, 80% of the world's fuel demand will come from the developing world, and 70% of all new car sales will occur there as well. Nobody can deny the emerging middle class in the South to want cars (as some in the West do), after all, they are the true sign of mobility in all its senses (social as well as economic mobility). But what we can wish for, is to see that this highly dynamic and huge market makes the right decisions and 'leapfrogs' into a greener, cleaner and more sustainable future.

Italian maker Fiat, which has been building flex-fuel (ethanol) cars in Brazil for a long time, has shown two compact cars in Paris that are further evidence of its concern for environmental protection. They are attractive to the rising middle classes in many developing countries, because they are highly efficient, affordable, compact and multi, multi, multi flex...

The Panda Panda extends the range of Fiat's bi-fuel cars that run on either gasoline or methane (biogas). But it is the ‘Multipla Multi-Eco’ concept car that interests us most. It combines an innovative powertrain architecture, consisting of an engine that can run on three different fuels, namely gasoline, biogas, and a self-determined mixture of gasoline and ethanol. The car moreover uses environmentally friendly materials (bioplastics and biopolymers that are recyclable) both for the interior as well as for the exterior of the car.

The Multipla Multi-Eco concept car exploits the potential of Tri-fuel technology combining petrol, a mixture of petrol and ethanol (E85) and methane (petrol/E85 dual fuel systems are normally termed Flex fuel systems). E85 is a mixture made up of 15% petrol and 85% bio-ethanol.

This is how it works: the bio-ethanol and the petrol are poured into the same tank; a feature that makes it easier for motorists to refuel. The engine software monitors the mixture and alters the injection properties accordingly in fully automatic manner. Flex engines are able to work in the same way and with the same performance using both conventional fuel and natural alcohol-based fuels. The option of switching from E85 to methane certainly represents a new alternative for sustainable mobility for city and rural driving because the methane reduces CO2 emissions while cutting polluting PM and NOx (urban pollution) to zero, while ethanol considerably reduces CO2 emissions. The Multipla Multi-Eco Concept Car is created through the experience of Fiat Brazil in the field of innovative power units able to run on different fuels in any proportion.

This car is highly suitable for the developing world for several reasons:
  • in the South, ethanol can be produced competitively from abundant feedstocks (unlike in the US or Europe, where ethanol is not competitive and needs subsidies)
  • biogas is also widely available and can be produced from any biomass waste stream
  • moreover, both fuels can be produced and distributed in a decentralised manner, which means cutting transport costs and cutting dependence on outside market forces
Fiat's 'Panda Panda' is interesting as well, for it too works on biogas and has a long range. Smart, practical, fun and environmentally sound: these are the distinctive features of the ‘Panda Panda’, the new minimum environmental impact vehicle equipped with a 52 bhp 1.2 engine with a dual petrol/methane fuel system:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

This original Natural Power sets out to become the new benchmark in the sustainable urban mobility vehicle scenario. The Panda Panda is also even more innovative because it overcomes the drawbacks typical of methane cars. The floorpan, derived from the 4x4 version, incorporates two separate methane tanks, each with a capacity of 72 litres. The two tanks fitted in this way allow the same amount of room as on the original car for both passenger and luggage (more than 200 litres with the rear seats upright).

The 72 litre capacity allows a superior trip range that is about 300 kilometres using methane alone (20% more range than that offered by the Fiat Punto, for example). The fuel tank capacity remains unchanged compared to the petrol version (30 litres) thus ensuring peace of mind even where methane suppliers are thin on the ground.

The ‘Panda Panda’ confirms Fiat’s leadership in the methane sector and its continuous quest to find solutions that reconcile customer needs with the greatest respect for the environment. Methane vehicles reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 23% compared to the equivalent petrol vehicles and reduce particulate matter (PM) emissions to practically zero. Emissions when the car is driven in methane mode amount to 114g of CO2/Km compared to 133g of CO2/Km in petrol mode (NEDC cycle).

The Panda Panda will also be available with a Dynamic specification to ensure that even the basic version of the car is packed with creature comforts and may be customised on the basis of individual requirements. The new Panda version is also ideal for small company fleets since it can be driven around freely in any city centre.


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