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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, September 14, 2006

Honda achieves breakthrough in technology to produce ethanol from cellulosic biomass

Very imortant news: Honda Motor Co, one of the most innovative auto manufacturers, announced [official release *.pdf] today it has co-developed the world's first practical process for producing ethanol out of cellulosic biomass in what is a big step towards using non-edible plant materials as fuel. Ethanol is becoming a major source of motor fuel but faces supply limits, as it is produced primarily from sugar and starch of sugarcane and corn feedstock, which are also utilized as food.

The breakthrough comes as automakers look for alternatives to petroleum-based fuels that will not release greenhouse gases that fan global warming. Surging oil prices have also spurred companies to develop new fuels that may be cheaper and not as prone to supply disruptions. "Expansion of biomass utilization holds enormous potential as a major step forward toward the realization of an energy sustainable society," Honda said.

Honda co-developed the new process with the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, or RITE, a nonprofit entity set up by the Japanese government and private enterprises, which said the new method allows large volumes of ethanol to be produced from the cellulose and hemicellulose found in widely available biomass waste, such as wood chips, leaves, corn stalks, palm fronds, rice hulls and a whole range of other agricultural residues.

Current technology for converting cellulosic biomass yielded impractically low levels of ethanol due to the interference of fermentation inhibitors with the function of microorganisms that convert sugar into alcohol. The fermentation inhibitors are formed primarily during the process of separating cellulose and hemicellulose from soft biomass.

The new process uses a microorganism [Corynebacterium glutamicum, picture released by Honda] developed by RITE that helps reduce such interference, allowing for far more efficient ethanol production .

The process consists of the following operations:

  • Pretreatment to separate cellulose from soft-biomass
  • Saccharification of cellulose and hemicellulose
  • Conversion of sugar into ethanol using the RITE-microorganisms
  • Ethanol refinement
"This achievement solves the last remaining fundamental hurdle to ethanol production from soft biomass," Hideaki Yukawa, chief researcher at RITE's molecular microbiology and genetics lab, told a news conference in Tokyo.

Honda's research unit Honda R&D Co. said it aimed to set up a biorefinery in 2008 at the earliest to test the technology for practical applications. The partners plan to work next on a plant that can produce not only ethanol, but other industrial compounds from plant matter as well:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is on its way to becoming a mainstream world commodity as soaring prices for crude oil and gasoline push consumers to use more "green" fuels produced from renewable resources.

Ethanol production is also attracting the attention of investors. Producing ethanol from corn yields profit margins of over 20 percent, Yukawa said, citing U.S. government data -- much higher than selling the crop as food. Bio-ethanol is also carbon-neutral since carbon dioxide released by the combustion of the fuel is offset by the CO2 captured by plants through photosynthesis.

Japan hopes to replace about 500,000 kilolitres (3 million barrels) of transportation fuels with bio-ethanol a year by 2010. In the United States, the Bush administration has called for improving technologies in order to reduce U.S. oil imports from the Middle East by three-quarters by 2025.

More information:
Bloomberg: Honda Finds Way to Make Ethanol From Inedible Plants - Sept. 14, 2006
Reutrers: Honda co-develops process to make biomass ethanol - Sept. 14, 2006
AP: Honda develops new way to make biofuel that could boost environmentally friendly cars - Sept. 14, 2006


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