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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

Uganda makes ethanol blending compulsory

Lorries with sugar cane, Uganda. The country's thriving sugar industry has a lot of room to expand. In theory, Uganda could leapfrog towards energy independence through biofuels.

The East African. Uganda will soon make it compulsory for oil companies to blend petroleum with a variety of biofuels (ethanol or biodiesel) as the country tries to beat rising oil prices by reducing dependence on petroleum, a senior government official has said.

The Ugandan Ministry of Energy says it has completed development of a policy on a renewable energy that will make in compulsory for oil companies to fossil diesel and gasoline with climate neutral fuels. Energy Minister Daudi Migereko says the policy [no documents yet], which covers ethanol, biodiesel, biomass, wind and solar, is essentially ready and will require oil companies to blend petroleum with ethanol to a maximum ratio of 20 per cent.

In 2005, Uganda produced some 1.6 million tonnes of sugarcane (FAOStat), giving the country's sugar industry a large potential for the production of ethanol, with much room to expand. But oil companies have been reluctant to blend the green fuel with petroleum, arguing that the majority of motor engines in the country not optimised to burn on ethanol and will suffer corrosion. With oil prices currently at an unprecedented peak, the government is taking a keener interest in fuel alternatives.

"The ratios for biofuel are still being worked out, but given the rate at which oil prices are rising and the fact that the cost of ethanol and biofuels are now lower, it is in our interest to diversify the energy mix in order to reduce dependence," said Mr Migereko.

He said oil companies’ misgivings notwithstanding, the government would be firm in giving direction on the issue. "As a country, we have limited supply of foreign exchange, so there is no more justification for sticking to a product that is becoming increasingly expensive," he said.

Uganda on average consumes a combined volume of 840 million litres of refined diesel and petrol annually, meaning the country pays a higher price for fuel than either Kenya or Tanzania, who import crude oil and refine it locally:
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Industry players who spoke to the The EastAfrican said they had not been consulted over the proposed policy but warned that factors surrounding the supply side of ethanol needed careful study since the local sugar industry lacked the capacity to supply adequate quantities. This could make blending uneconomical as a result of high ethanol prices and could also distort food production.

Without a stable source, there is a danger that food prices could skyrocket as energy competes with nutritional needs from source crops, the industry warned.

Uganda produces less than 200,000 metric tonnes of sugar annually and it is not known how much ethanol the sugar industry is capable of producing if demand rises. At current production figures, at least 10.6 million litres of ethanol would be required every month to meet the ministry’s target of 20 per cent blending.

Oil companies also point out that while Brazil has a long tradition of ethanol production, the country has a large sugar industry and a local automobile industry that produces vehicles adapted to ethanol use.

"Technically it has been done but the problem here would be in finding derivatives to add. One also needs to find out what has to be done to engines to run on blended fuels and what impact these have on engine life, one player said.

Mr Migereko cast doubt on arguments that ethanol could reduce engine life, arguing that countries that are using ethanol-blended fuel buy vehicles from the same production lines that supply Ugandan vehicles. "Ordinary people are already ahead of us because in the rural areas, motorists are already blending petrol with locally distilled liquors, he said.

The policy will come into force as soon as the ministry has completed financial provisions to support the Department for Renewable Energy. The department will be responsible for monitoring and putting together the expertise to address technical issues.

"All those issues have cost implications that must be budgeted for, but given the urgency of the matter, this may not wait for the next financial year, said Mr Migereko.

The Ministry’s policy comes on the back of a number of ongoing initiatives by the private sector to produce bio-fuel.

Edible oil and personal care products manufacturer Mukwano Group recently said that studies into the production of bio-fuel and electricity generation from renewable sources by the company were at an advanced stage.

Chief executive Hassan Rizvi last week told The EastAfrican, that the company would roll out its renewable energy programme in two months.


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