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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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Thursday, September 07, 2006

"Radical" biomass use urged to combat coal, carbon trading

Carbon is becoming an ever increasing problem. We already knew that CO2 emissions cause global warming, but strategies and targets to reduce them were designed and are up and running (carbon trading). The real drama is that serious cracks are now appearing in the 'European Union Emissions Trading Scheme' (ETS), this most publicised of weapons for fighting climate change. The big idea was that polluters have the right to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide. But if they reduce their carbon dioxide emissions beyond a certain level, they can make money by trading the unused part of their quota.

The problem now looks like this: with the introduction of the ETS, prices for dirty coal shot up, making it more expensive for utilities to use this most polluting of fuels. So far so good. But then utilities using cleaner technologies, such as nuclear and natural gas, simply raised their electricity prices to the same level, and let the consumer pay. The result: windfall profits for utilities. Since many utilities play on several horses at the same time (they own both natural gas and coal plants), their overall profits have gone up, and the incentive to abandon coal has become eroded. This is what many have called the first 'scandal', and it became most apparent in the UK.
But there's even more: meanwhile, natural gas prices shot up in a real way, and the cleaner fuel has become so expensive, that the anti-coal incentive is now virtually worthless. On top of this, the price of carbon-credits in Europe has collapsed, worsening things.

The carbon trading system is in disarray. For this reason, more and more people are beginning to urge a 'radical', 'real' and 'mandatory' use of alternatives such as biomass. Biomass is carbon-neutral, or when produced in the tropics, it can even be carbon-negative.

British minister for climate change and environment Ian Pearson therefor wants to see a "radical" rise in the use of biofuels as part of efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions and improve security of supply amid soaring oil prices. "We want to see a real step change in biomass use to meet these energy challenges," Pearson told a bioenergy conference organised by the Renewable Energy Association in Weston-super-mare, western England.

Biomass in power generation alone could cut Britain's CO2 emissions by up to 3.5 million metric tonnes a year, he said:
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Biomass is seen as cutting carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels like gas and coal, and is also considered an ideal fuel for combined heat and power plants which power local communities or buildings and involve efficiency savings.

Urgent action was needed from all sectors to cut emissions significantly and combat climate change, Pearson said. "We believe that biomass has an important role to play as an alternative source of energy to help meet these challenges." Pearson said that while Britain would meet its greenhouse gas emissions cuts targets under the Kyoto agreement and even beat its target for the 2008-2012 period by as much as 23 percent, its own more ambitious target of CO2 emissions cuts was looking less achievable.

The government had pledged to cut emissions of CO2 in 2020 by 20 percent compared to 1990 levels, but admitted earlier this year the target would be a tough one to meet. The rise in UK gas prices over the last few years has led to greater use of coal to fire power stations, which has resulted in higher CO2 emissions than the government had anticipated, the minister said.

The question is whether the carbon-trading scheme really works, and if it weren't better to mandate the use of biomass. The solid biofuels could be sourced from the developing world, in a win-win situation. In-depth research has shown that such a trade is feasible, and that even despite long distances involved in moving the bulky biomass, CO2 savings would be considerable.

More information:
Joint IEA Bioenergy Task 38 and Task 40 Workshop: Greenhouse gas credits trade versus biomass trade – weighing the benefits [*.pdf]

IEA Task 40: Bioenergy Trade: International bioenergy transport costs and energy balance [*.pdf]

BBC: Concerns over EU carbon trading - 15 May 2006

BBC: Carbon trading's real colours - 16 May 2006

BBC: '£1bn windfall' from carbon trade - 1 May 2006


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