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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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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Philippines battle over biofuels: oil lobby against the people

The Philippines has seen an at times heated debate about the need for biofuels. Two clear camps have arised, on the one hand the 'oil lobby' and the auto-makers (and here and here), who are being accused of trying to block the massive introduction of ethanol and biodiesel, and on the other, a diverse group of academics, environmentalists, farmers' unions and politicians (and here) who see the benefits of green fuels in an era of high oil prices and energy insecurity. The Philippines' senate floor has seen nothing less than an almost physical fight over attempts to get biofuel legislation passed.

The situation is strange, to say the least, because in many other countries, petroleum companies are working together with the biofuel advocates. After all, it is the oil companies who will be mixing and distributing the renewable fuels. Often, in the developing world this task is undertaken by the large and powerful state-owned petroleum company. Only, the Philippines' national petroleum company (PNOC), is too small to really weigh on the debate.

It is interesting to follow the discussion in the island state, because pro and con arguments there are often so exaggerated that they show us the real issues very clearly. The latest public debate is over whether or not ethanol blends can be readily used in the existing car fleet of the country.

The Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI) earlier said that 40 percent of the vehicles in the Philippines were not fit for biofuels. But Filcar Foundation trustee Alex Loinaz, a fuel expert is saying otherwise, even noting that the alternative fuel is ideal for use in countries with warm weather such as the Philippines. He said carbureted engines would even benefit from the use of ethanol-blended gasoline as these types of engines operate at very low-pressure differentials, making them unable to compensate for the volume effects of partially vaporized fuel.

Blending ethanol with gasoline jacks up the latent heat of vaporization of the fuel and allows the ethanol to absorb heat, Loinaz said. When the ethanol vaporizes, the air density in the fuel mixture also increases, and this enhances the air/fuel mixture, he said. The Chamber maintains that carbureted vehicles were not compatible with biofuels as their open loop systems cannot adjust to changes in the oxygen content of the fuel, resulting in higher emissions.

"The statement that 40 percent of the vehicles in the country are not fit for biofuels is an obvious error or an outright lie," said Loinaz, who has done extensive research on the development and application of ethanol and other gasoline additives:
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He also refuted the CAMPI claim that ethanol could degrade vehicle "drivability" because pf its higher heat of vaporization compared with other octane enhancer, which could result in poorer cold start performance.

The CAMPI had also said the energy content of ethanol was lower than that of pure gasoline, resulting in reduced mileage.

Loinaz admitted that using a 10-percent ethanol blend in gasoline reduced its energy content by 3.2 percent but he said this did not bring down a vehicle's overall efficiency.


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