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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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Monday, September 25, 2006

Humble jatropha shrub fuels India's first green trains

India is home to the world's largest railway network. Its trains transport millions of people each day to work and from the countryside to the cities. In a revolutionary first that promises to solve India's energy problems and radically reduce its fuel bills along with its pollution levels, two Indian railway trains are now running on a home-grown mix of diesel and jatropha biodiesel, the biofuel extracted from the seeds of the Jatropha curcas shrub.

For India, the green fuel could be the transport fuel of the future, with the present beset with woes of global energy shortages and rising fuel prices.

Chief minister of the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh, who has set upon the task of growing jatropha with a missionary zeal, is the driving force behind the green train project. Ealier he launched a massive jatropha planting campaign that resulted in 3 million seedlings being planted in a single day.

The South East Central Railway (SECR), the highest profit-making zone of Indian Railways, is already running two narrow gauge trains in Chhattisgarh using the biofuel. The trains travel 300 km a day, to and from the state capital Raipur to Rajim (about 120 km in total), and from Raipur to Dhamtari (about 180 km).

"The railways have been mixing up to five percent jatropha biofuel with traditional diesel since July 22 for two trains -- the Raipur-Rajim and Raipur-Dhamtari. The experiment is proving to be a great success, and engines are working smoother and jerk free," said a triumphant Ajay Kumar Jaiswal, SECR's Raipur Railway division spokesperson.

"After a periodical review of three to six months, the railways will increase the quantum of biofuel mix with diesel and will seriously consider for using it on long-distance trains to save huge expenditure on imported diesel". India Railways spends an annual €34.8/US$43.6 million on diesel fuel.

India Railways is using 30 percent of its total land, about 5,000 hectares, for jatropha plantations. This year, 600,000 shrubs have been planted and another 700,000 more are on the anvil. This is being done all across northern India, including in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. And in a particularly big way in Chhattisgarh.

"We are determined to go in for mass plantations of jatropha and encourage farmers to adopt its cultivation for commercial use. I strongly believe that Chhattisgarh alone can make India an energy secure country through biofuels, by 2015,' Raman Singh said. Chhattisgarh has announced that it would plant 160 million saplings this financial year. It plans to take up an exhaustive programme on a million hectares of fallow land by 2012:
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In fact, on Sep 4 this year, thousands of volunteers in the state planted about two million jatropha saplings in just 11 hours to find a place in the Limca Book of Records - a move that also motivated people towards the plant that is such a rich source of bio-fuel.

The state government has asked New Delhi to unveil a national bio-diesel policy to help it become totally bio-fuel self-reliant state by year 2015.

It claims the bio-fuel rich plants have the potential to help India get over its annual requirement of 124 million metric tonnes of petroleum products, of which around 72 percent is met through imports at a cost of over Rs.1.5 trillion.

The arithmetic works to everybody's favour.

Bio diesel produces 80 percent less carbon dioxide and 100 percent less sulphur dioxide emissions and provides 90 percent reduction in cancer risks. It can be used alone or mixed in any ratio with mineral oil diesel fuel.

"One hectare of jatropha plantation yields on an average two tonnes of bio-diesel," said Chhattisgarh Biofuel Development Authority (CBDA) executive director S.K. Shukla.

"We are fortunate to have ample renewable resources, which can replace imported oil, strengthening the economy of the nation and also making it more self-reliant," he added.

The Chhattisgarh government, which has installed a bio-fuel plant in Raipur is currently producing 3,000 litres of jatropha bio-fuel a day and has announced steps to install bigger production units in other districts for public supply and larger commercial use.

"Bio diesel is an alternative fuel that can be used in diesel engines and provides power similar to conventional diesel fuel. The final product, bio diesel fuel, when used directly in a diesel engine will burn up to 75 percent cleaner then mineral oil diesel fuel," said C.R. Hazra, vice chancellor of the Indira Gandhi Agriculture University, Raipur.

"It is the most valuable form of renewable energy that can be used directly in any existing, unmodified diesel engine. Bio diesel fuel can be produced from oilseed plants such as jatropha curcas."

Acknowledging that it could be fuel of the future, the Indian government has launched the National Mission on Bio-Diesel with a view to finding cheap and renewable liquid fuel. Its report submitted in 2003 identified jatropha as the ideal oilseed to extract the oil for converting it into bio-diesel.

The government has given out Rs.490 million ($10 million) to nine states for raising jatropha seedlings in the nurseries, say officials.

The government has also announced the use of ethanol-blended petrol across India from November 1 even while tying up with Brazil, a world leader in the use of ethanol, for greater development and production of the alternative fuel in the country.


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