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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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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Micro-biorefineries: nanotechnology and bioenergy meet

Two diametrically opposed tendencies are emerging in the nascent bioenergy sector. On the one hand, green fuels like ethanol, biodiesel, biogas or solid biomass are seen as world 'commodities' that can be traded on a global market, and shipped over oceans across the planet in huge vessels, or pumped through biofuel pipelines a thousand kilometres long. As such, the biofuels industry can be compared to the oil and gas sector, which symbolises the era of globalisation, dependence, 'deterritorialisation', centralisation, and top-down decision-making.

But there is another vision, one in which decentralisation, independence, localisation, '(re-)territorialisation' and dynamic, bottom-up decision making processes are the key concepts. Local communities become owners of their own energy infrastructure, resources and politics. It is within this paradigm that a consortium of British universities, supported by the University of Newcastle's spin-off Intensified Technologies Inc (ITI), is working towards the development of 'micro-biorefineries' that use locally produced biomass feedstocks and turn them into fuels, electricity, heat, and green specialty chemicals at a local scale, and fine-tuned to the ever changing needs of a particular community. The fascinating project combines nanotechnology with biotechnology to get there and promises to bring a highly dynamic, multi-purpose micro-factory to our neighborhoods.

The idea is to integrate different bioconversion processes, and to scale them down radically ('Process Intensification and Miniaturisation'). Three conversion steps are integrated, each using the residues of the precedent step:
  1. a first conversion and pretreatment of the base biomass through bacterial breakdown into a 'bio-sludge' with a high energy density
  2. conversion of the biomass residues that result from this process into ethanol through fermentation
  3. gasification of the residues that remain from this fermentation process into a synthesis gas, which has to be purified
Prison cells for bacteria
Key to the integration of the steps is the control of the behavior of bacteria, which play a role both in the breakdown and pretreatment of the initial biomass, as well as in the fermentation and purification steps. In order to control bacteria in a way that does not rely on manipulating their genetic properties, the consortium is developing porous nano-structures designed on a molecular scale. A new production process based on micro-waves allows the porous materials to be made in a matter of seconds, whereas a few years ago this took days. These structures are either made from polymer, metal or ceramic materials and form a kind of 'prison with cells' for the bacteria.
By changing the size of the pores in which the bacteria house, different levels of 'physiological stress' can be put onto them, which makes the bacteria change their behavior. Through this manipulation of 'nano-scale environmental stress', the bacteria can be controlled and told to perform specific tasks. The scientists say they have been able to multiply the efficiency of the microorganisms' biomass conversion work by a factor of 20 or 30 in this way.

One type of bacterium which was developed in a porous polymer is used outside of the biorefinery, in the fields, so to speak. It lets several kinds of biomass grow much quicker and allows it to grow on marginal and even dry land. This way, the quantity of biomass that will be used in the local biorefinery can be managed and predicted much better, and forms a constant feed:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Metal nano-blocks with pores with a diametre of 10 to 100 micrometres will be used as catalysts for the production of green specialty chemicals from the syngas and its residues. Porous ceramics with still different properties and functions are currently in development.

The syngas that is obtained in the last stage of the process can be broken down and its chemical elements separated: dihydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane and carbondioxide which form the basis of larger molecules like ammonia, ethanol and methanol. The conversion of this synthesis gas into usable products requires catalytic reactions and a scrubbing procedure, carried out at high temperatures.

Depending on current needs and local circumstances, the syngas can also be directly used either in a combustion engine or in fuel cells to produce electricity. And again, high temperatures are required here (in the case of fuel cells), which is why the researchers are focusing on metallic nano-catalysts for fuel cells that function under temperatures of up to 1600°C.

Entry ends here. /PREAD/
Cette information est un extrait du BE Royaume-Uni numéro 69 du 8/09/2006 rédigé par l'Ambassade de France au Royaume-Uni.


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