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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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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Tropical grasses in Germany as an energy feedstock

Sudan grass (Sorghum sudanense) and the common sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) are widely distributed over the humid tropics and subtropics where they have been cultivated for thousands of years. In Africa, the elegant soghums are a typical element of the landscape. In the near future, they might turn up in Europe as the search to find the most suitable energy crops intensifies.

The German federal Centre for Breeding Research on Cultivated Plants (Bundesanstalt für Züchtungsforschung an Kulturpflanzen) launched a project studying the biomass production potential of these two crops, and its first results are promising.

Biomass crops are set to make up an ever important part of Germany's energy landscape, with special attention going to the production of biogas from dedicated crops and to crops for cellulosic ethanol. Currently, the country's main energy crop is maize, followed by rye which is cultivated in drier regions. In highly developed crop rotation systems, plants that are new and exotic to Central European agriculture could be used. It seems like both sorghum and sudan grass offer an optimal combination with rye.

Dr Steffen Roux (pictured next to a hybrid between sorghum bicolor and sorghum sudanense) heads the project in Gross Lüsewitz. It is no coincidence that the tropical grass species bear some resemblance with maize and with rye, he says, because, evolutionary speaking, they belong to the same family. Both exotic plants use water resources very efficiently, withstand moderate droughts, grow very fast, and have a high biomass productivity. Rye grows fast as well and is traditionally harvested in June, after which several months remain before winter sets in. It is in this period that a second crop can be grown, provided it is a true sprinter. The sorghums and hybrids that are being developed, are. Encouraging dry matter yields are the result of this sequence:
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Roux: "Because of its robustness, rye grows well in lighter soils in North-Eastern germany. The crop has many uses either as a grain crop for human consumption or as animal fodder, for ethanol and lactic acid production, and for the production of biomass for energy. When it comes to the latter use, rye has the advantage that it grows fast and makes room for a second crop. Agro-economically speaking, this makes biomass production for energy very attractive."

The research project started in june 2006, and aims to study whether sorghum and a hybrid between sorghum and sudan grass are suitable in Germany as crops to follow rye. Genetic research into sorghum varieties and species will determine which kinds of grass will withstand the German climate and conditions best. After this has been determined, an active breeding and selection program will be launched.

The project in Gross Lüsewitz is part of a bigger program into new crop rotation systems utilizing exotes for energy. Six more test sites located in (southern) Germany will determine which environmental factors are at play for which kinds of crops. In total, the site in Gross Lüsewitz is analysing 16 sorghum and sudan grass varieties, that are being compared to hybrids of the two plants.

Even though there are no final results yet, Dr Roux is already impressed: "The sorghums and the hybrids were sown on June 27 and despite the strong summer heat and drought during the first 40 days -- we only had 10mm of rain -- the grasses are growing fast and very homogeneously. Growth rates showed very rapid growth, and today, three months after the introduction of the crops we have reached a height of 2.70m (9 feet). It seems like above ground dry matter yields will be respectable and point to a potentially interesting utilization of the crop as biomass for energy."


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