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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 06, 2006

News about tropical energy crops

We are rapidly progressing towards a green energy future in which developing nations -- more particularly countries in the tropics and the sub-tropics -- are playing an ever increasing role. Because of this, we will begin to hear more and more about tropical energy crops that can be used to make solid and liquid biofuels.

We think it might be useful to offer news about those crops in a separate category (which can be found in the right bar of this blog). We will report about these crops with headlines on advances in biotechnology, green chemistry, agronomic news, biofuel programs, the expansion of hectarages, production data, breakthroughs in bioconversion processes using these crops, trade deals, export data and much more.

The following plants were selected, mainly because (we think) they will become the major energy crops of the future:
  • Cassava (Manihot esculenta), also known as 'manioc'; a promising bioenergy crop which thrives in non-forest areas and which is relatively drought-tolerant. Cassava is a staple food for half a billion people, mainly in Africa and South East Asia.
  • Jatropha (Jatropha curcas), known under many different names ('pinhao manso' in the lusophone world, 'tuba tuba' in South East Asia, or 'noix de pourghère' in the francophone world). Known for its tolerance to droughts, yields a good oil for biodiesel, and features in many national biofuels programs as the preferred crop.
  • Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), yielding more energy than any other crop (oil and solid biomass), and currently more competitive than any other crop. The expansion of oil palm plantations poses numerous environmental problems though.
  • Sorghum, a family of drought-tolerant grass species the most interesting of which is sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), already used widely for the production of alcohols. Sorghum is the fifth most widely grown food crop on earth, and is especially interesting because it is widely cultivated in semi-arid regions of Africa (the Sahel and the Southern African desert zone).
  • Sugarcane, perhaps the best known biofuel crop, with Brazil's vast ethanol industry which is based on it, being the example for many countries. There is a lot of scientific research going on focusing on sugarcane, with developing countries playing a crucial role. It will be interesting to see how this crop expands further into the global South, now that Brazil has shown how to build a bio-economy around it.
  • The market for solid biofuels is expanding rapidly, and globally. That is why we include information about 'tropical tree crops'. Some countries are already importing this kind of woody biomass from the south, to be used as a feedstock for biomass power plants, or to be co-fired with coal. We have limited ourselves to gathering news about the most promising tropical tree species, namely: eucalyptus, acacia and rubberwood.
  • Finally, with the advent of second generation biofuels, more and more grass species are being identified as having great potential as feedstocks to be used under various 'biomass-to-liquid' conversion technologies (cellulosic ethanol, fast pyrolysis, gasification-to-liquids). Strictly speaking both sugarcane and sorghum are grasses, but in this category, we focus on herbaceous species that are only gradually being recognized as potential bioenergy crops and around which a great deal of research is going on: miscanthus and bamboo (genuses with many species and subspecies).
There already is a wealth of information about these crops available online. For this reason we will limit ourselves to reporting stories that may count as real 'news'. However, mainstream media do not often report about crops and their development, and certainly not about those cultivated in the tropics, which is why we will actively search for stories and studies coming from research institutions dedicated to these particular crops [entry ends here].
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