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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 19, 2006

Tanzania turns to cassava for energy, ethanol

Cassava is rapidly becoming a preferred crop for the nascent biofuels industry in sub-Saharan Africa. The starchy tuber is widely and easily cultivated, yields an impressive amount of useable biomass, thrives in poor soils far away from rainforests, without requiring much water, and it copes well with difficult climatic conditions (it withstands moderate droughts). This is why cassava or manioc is traditionally seen as an 'emergency crop' in Africa, planted when all else fails.
Nigeria is a leader in the use of cassava for the production of ethanol, on which it has based an ambitious biofuels program, and now Tanzania is following in Nigeria's footsteps.

Millions of dollars Tanzania spends on importing petroleum products could be saved, thanks to an ambitious three-year pilot project on the use of cassava to produce energy for for industrial processes. The project is run by the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH).

According to East African Business Week (via AllAfrica) Tanzania spent US$1.1billion on oil imports in a period of one year starting July 2005 to about the same time this year, a situation the country's central bank is not comfortable with. Understandably so, because high energy prices impact developing countries heavily. Many developing countries, such as Tanzania, have a high 'energy intensity', which means that they feel the effect of rising oil prices immediately, and in all economic sectors (highly developed countries both have a very efficient energy infrastructure, financial and economic instruments to mitigate price rises, and scale-advantages - which is why they are better armed against high energy prices). Tanzania is therefor looking elsewhere, away from the oil and gas that plagues its economy so much.

According to Mr. Matheo Raphael, the director of COSTECH's Centre for the Development and Transfer of Technology, the project will add value to cassava by turning it from being a food security crop into a crop for industrial use and even for export. "Cassava production may be oriented for industrial use and that will push its production and value as well as help fight poverty," Raphael said. He said currently many farmers hesitate to cultivate more cassava since they see it as an 'emergency crop' only. The centre now wants to extract ethanol from cassava which is easy to cultivate and resistant to drought. Raphael said the development of cassava into bio-fuel was crucial at this time when oil prices are soaring and foreign reserves dwindling.

"The spotlight is turning to ethanol made from fermented cassava starch, which is a promising resource." Similar to other types of ethanol obtained from agricultural products, it can be used to substitute 25% of petrol in vehicles with standard engines, and up to 50 for diesel engines, especially in agricultural machines. Producing biofuels using agricultural machines that work on biofuels... :
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"That means the country would import less fuel," Raphael said.

He said, however, that the project needs a lot of support from politicians. "We will first run a pilot project in the coastal and central regions to convince politicians that it is viable."

The expert, however, warns that the product must be vigilantly guarded because the same chemistry used in production of bio-fuel ethanol is applied in the preparation of illicit spirits (see earlier post about Nigeria's 'alcohol-as fuel or alcohol-to-get-drunk' dilemma).

Tanzania is one of the largest cassava producers in Africa. About 700,000 hectares of land are under cultivation with total production of about 1.8million tonnes of cassava. Cassava producing regions are Mtwara, Mara and Ruvuma.

A fortnight ago, the Prime Minister, Mr. Edward Lowassa said the government is set to sign agreements with Thailand and Vietnam in fields that cover biotechnology among other things. Lowassa said President Kikwete was to sign the agreements during an international conference in Cuba last week. The Premier said there was a consensus about inviting businessmen from Thailand and Vietnam to invest in production of petrol and diesel from cassava, sugarcanes and jatropha.


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