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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

Noble Group may invest in ethanol projects in Brazil as biofuels market globalises

The biofuels market is becoming a truly global one as countries move away from relying on petroleum from instable regions and switch to ethanol, biodiesel and biomass. Hong Kong-based Noble Group Ltd., which accounts for 10 percent of all ethanol exports from Brazil, is one of the major players in the market and may start investing in production plants in the South American nation to benefit from this forecast rising global demand.

"We want to position ourselves as a significant player in the global ethanol market", Hong Kong-based Noble's Chief Operating Officer Ricardo Leiman said. "The big opportunity in Brazilian ethanol is not only its domestic market but all these global markets."

Brazil, the world's biggest producer of sugar and ethanol, said last month prices of the fuel rose 20 percent in the past year. Investors including Bill Gates, Richard Branson, George Soros and Vinod Khosla are pouring millions of dollars into biofuel companies on optimism that demand for alternative fuels will gain.

"Demand for ethanol will only be higher with many countries trying to move away from fossil fuels produced in unstable regions," said Roger Groebli, head of equity research at ABN Amro Bank NV in Singapore, who personally holds shares in Noble. "I believe the vision of Noble, and I think in the medium-to-long term this is a very solid strategy to get market share."

Tropical commodities
Noble wants to grab a larger share of trade in materials such as iron ore, sugar, corn and cocoa as economic growth in Asia, led by China, stokes demand for commodities. China's economy expanded 11.3 percent in the second quarter, the fastest rate in more than a decade. Ethanol is made from corn or sugar and is blended with gasoline. Grain-based ethanol and other alternative fuel sources have the potential to supplant U.S. gasoline needs during the next 25 years, venture capitalist Khosla said Sept. 21. His fund, Khosla Ventures, invests in corn-based ethanol plant construction.

Countries in Asia will look to biofuels to improve local farmers' livelihood, reduce pollution and oil imports, said Noble's Leiman. China and India both have started producing and using fuel-grade ethanol on limited scale, while Japan and South Korea may follow suit, he said:

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Noble will have agreements with suppliers in the U.S. to market 1 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2008 if all planned plants get financing, he said. It's also a market maker for the ethanol contract traded on Chicago Board of Trade.

$1 Trillion
The world needs to spend $1 trillion a year developing alternative fuels, starting 20 years before the peak in conventional oil production, in order to mitigate fuel shortages, a U.S. Energy Department study this month showed. Brazil plans to begin operating 12 new sugar and ethanol mills this year and 17 new mills in 2007, Agriculture Minister Luis Carlos Guedes Pinto said last month.

Demand for biofuels has been aided by surging crude oil prices, which rose to a record $78.40 a barrel on July 14. Still, U.S. average ethanol prices last sank below $2 a gallon for the first time since January as gasoline futures dropped amid abundant supplies of the motor fuel. Sugar prices have fallen by 16 percent this year in New York.

Valuation of ethanol projects in Brazil has ``stabilized'' after the recent fall in ethanol and sugar prices, so ``if we find right projects and right partner, we will most likely do a transaction,'' Leiman said.

Crude Decline
The decline in crude oil prices hasn't dampened Noble's optimism for ethanol, Leiman said. ``We still like ethanol. We are long-term investors so price fluctuation in the short-term doesn't really make too much of a difference to us.''

Seasonal factors including the end of the driving season in the U.S. led to lower gasoline prices, Leiman said.

U.S. ethanol companies are expanding distilleries or building new plants after refiners this year switched to making gasoline for use with the fuel instead of methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, following changes in fuel rules in last year's energy bill.

Ethanol demand in U.S. will reach 16.6 million tons this year ``independent of oil and gasoline prices,'' Noble's Leiman said.

Global ethanol demand will grow by 51 percent to 54.5 million tons by 2010, in which U.S. will remain the world's biggest consumer at 26.6 million tons a year, Leiman said.

Brazil will continue to be the world's major low-cost ethanol producer and exporter while Asia's demand will grow to 7.5 million tons by 2010. It's using less than 2 million tons.


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