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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 11, 2006

Interview about 'third generation' biofuels

It has become common to divide biofuels into 'generations', depending on the crop or the conversion technology involved. 'First generation' biofuels consist of unmodified sugar, starch or oil crops being used to make ethanol or biodiesel, by utilizing the easily fermentable parts of the crop (in the case of ethanol) or by transesterifying seed oil. 'Second generation' biofuels rely on advanced bioconversion techniques, such as the enzymatic breakdown of ligno-cellulose to make ethanol. That way, much more biomass is available as a feedstock. In 'third generation' biofuels, the energy crops or the bioconversion agents (bacteria, micro-organisms) themselves have been bio-engineered in such a way that the bioconversion process becomes more efficient. For woody crops for example, the lignin structure may be altered so that it breaks down 'on command' and releases the sugars needed, much easier.

In its "Young Innovator" series, the MIT Technology Review has an interesting interview with Michael Raab, a 33 year old bioengineer who is working on such 'third generation' biofuels.

In the US, fuel ethanol is made almost exclusively from corn kernels, and it provides little more energy than raising, harvesting, and processing the corn consumes. Determined to help wean the world off petroleum, Michael Raab is putting enzymes into corn that will make it easier and cheaper to convert the entire plant--kernels, husk, stalk, and leaves--into ethanol. These proteins allow processors to break the complex carbohydrates that make up most of the corn plant into simple sugars that can be easily fermented into ethanol.

What is your company, Agrivida, doing?
Raab: We're taking the processing enzymes used to break down the leaves and the stalks and reëngineering them so they have no activity when they're in the plant. Then after you harvest the leaves and stalks, you can discretely activate the enzymes with a mechanism that we can control; we are using increases in temperature and acidity that coincide with normal ethanol-processing conditions.

Why is it important to design these enzymes to be inactive until needed?

Putting enzymes in plants is not a new idea, but it has not been very successful because the enzymes have a dramatic negative effect on plant development. Our engineered enzymes get around this problem by delaying their activation, which allows the plants to grow normally:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

How does this process improve ethanol production?
Our enzymes allow us to more efficiently process the plant, which increases ethanol yields per acre by about 50 percent while decreasing costs per gallon by about 30 percent. In a commodity market that is growing as fast as ethanol is, that's a huge deal.

Will this process work on other plants?
We are beginning with corn; once it's proven there, we will transfer the traits into other crops, such as switchgrass, poplar, and sugarcane. That will allow geographic regions other than the Midwest to make ethanol, which decreases transportation costs; it also expands growing seasons and provides farmers with greater alternatives in their crop selection.


Anonymous said...

Interesting article. In your opinion, can bacteria be engineered to break down the lignin-cellulose in woody biomass so that the biomass can be a candidate feedstock for mesophilic anaerobic digestion? Thanks.

10:09 AM  

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