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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, October 29, 2006

Biogas technology to the rescue of rural people in Bangladesh

Only yesterday, we reported about the air pollution brought about by traditional biomass use in the developing world - both on a micro-scale (in the kitchen, where soot particles kill) and on a planetary scale (contributing considerably to global warming).
We indicated that small steps are required to switch to modern biomass use, in order to solve these problems. In this editorial, Shahiduzzaman Khan explains that both the government and rural people in Bangladesh are doing exactly that, by relying on household biogas production instead of firewood.

Biogas, an alternative to conventional fuel oil or wood, is being increasingly used in Bangladesh. It is being used for cooking and other household purposes in rural areas of the country.

The consumers of biogas said they use it instead of wood and other fuels because it is cost effective and environment-friendly. The residue left after gas extraction is a good organic manure, free from harmful germs and pathogens.

Cattle dung, human excreta, poultry drippings and garbage are processed in the biogas plants under anaerobic conditions to produce biogas. Most of the biogas plants in the country have been set up to process cattle dung. Seven or eight cows are required for a plant. The dung is mixed with water in equal ratio and stored in a tank. After 10 to 12 days biogas is produced in the plant which is supplied to the ovens through plastic pipes. A family of five or six members can easily cook their food and light lamps in their houses with a plant.

About 70 per cent of the gas is methane which is better as fuel than firewood and the remaining gas is carbon-dioxide. People use the gas like natural gas. The biogas, supplied from the plant to the kitchen is used to run a two-burner cooker where the gas burns with clean blue flame, free of smoke or ash, much the same way a Dhaka city household burns Titas gas. The Biogas Pilot Plant Project of the Institute of Fuel Research and Development [*.pdf] under the Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) started installation of biogas plants in 1995. The cost of installation of a plant with a production capacity of 100 cubic feet gas daily was at Tk 14,000 [€165/US$210].

The institute adopted a plan to develop technology of biogas about three decades ago. After a few years of research, the Institute succeeded in developing a biogas technology in 1976. First they developed the floating dome biogas plant which could ensure gas supply for three to five years. But then the fixed dome model of biogas plant was used which ensures gas supply for at least 30 years:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Biogas Pilot Plant Project provided a subsidy of Tk 7,500 [€88/$112] for each gas plant and the owner bore the rest of installation expense. The cost of a biogas plant with production capacity of 200 cubic feet (cft) gas is Tk 21,500 [€254/$323] ; that of a plant with capacity of 300 cft is Tk 29,000; a plant with capacity of 400 cft is Tk 40,500; a plant with capacity of 500 cft is Tk 47,500; and plant with a capacity of 1000 cft is Tk 75,000.

A plant with production capacity of 100 cft is sufficient for daily cooking of a family consisting of 7 to 10 members. Besides cooking, light, fan, radio and television can also be operated with biogas. For the operation of a plant 60 to 70 kilograms of cow-dung or 40 to 50 kilograms of excreta of poultry birds are required. The ideal place for setting up biogas plants is near the dairy and poultry farms as the cattle heads and poultry birds here produce required input.

Experts said the use of biogas can reduce dependency on natural gas and firewood, saving forests and increasing soil fertility. The poor people can save their hard earned money by using biogas as they need not to purchase firewood for cooking or kerosene for lighting.

In spite of being very insignificant in volume, the scope of wide availability of biogas to a very large number of rural people and remote areas make the technology very suitable and effective. There is no denying that commercially produced pipeline natural gas plays and will continue to play a vital role in the industrialisation of the country, but such gas has seldom chance of reaching the remote village households any time soon. In that respect there is no alternative to biogas for the millions of villagers.

Ironically, natural gas and imported oil are mostly out of reach of the vast majority of the country's rural people. It is the biomass energy source that is available to them and it consists of fuel wood, leaves, agricultural residues, cow dung and other organic wastes. These are defined as non-commercial energy and actually provide for the remaining 65 per cent of the total energy consumed in the country. About 80 per cent of the total population of the country or about 100 million people live in rural area. According to an estimate, only about 19 per cent of the country's total population has electricity, 4.0 per cent has natural gas connection in the households. In the rural area, only 5.0 per cent of the population use kerosene as fuel.

Gas supply to the vast multitude of the rural people is practically impossible for two reasons, i) it is not possible to build gas pipeline infrastructure to connect thousands of villages throughout the country, ii) even if that is possible, the rural population will not have the purchasing power to use pipeline gas in their households. Such a situation leaves the rural population to rely on the traditional biomass sources for household supply of energy.

This is, however, not only a case with Bangladesh, but with many other developing nations like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China etc. Over the last few decades there have been renewed interest and initiatives by many developing countries to innovate new and improved biomass energy technologies whereby the biomass energy sources can be used more efficiently and managed more scientifically. The most popular and widely used of these technologies has been the biogas technology in which biomass (cow dung, poultry dropping, agricultural residue etc) is converted into biogas.

The BCISR started its first five-year project in 1995 to install 5000 biogas plants in the country. A second phase of the project started in 2001 for four more years during which time 20,000 more biogas plants were scheduled to be installed throughout the country. Considering the level of interest among the rural people and the benefit this could bring to individual household, there should be more help from government and non-government organisations toward such projects.

Though the project has huge potentials to upgrade the social and economic status and standard of living of the rural population, there is not enough manpower assistance nor the required financial support to meet the countrywide demand existing at the moment. There is a lack of understanding as well as commitment on the part of the high officials in the administration about this kind of micro level project. Bangladesh remains far behind the neighbouring countries in developing biogas, as apparent from the fact that the number of biogas plants installed is about 3.0 million in India, 7.0 million in China, 70,000 in Nepal and only about 15,000 in Bangladesh.

According to Dr. Badrul Imam, a geology teacher of the Dhaka University, 40 million tonnes of fuel wood is used in rural areas for cooking purpose each year in Bangladesh. This destroys the country's forest and casts negative impact on weather, land and environment. Also, as other biomasses like leaves, cow dung and agricultural residues are burnt as cooking fuel, these can be of no more help as a natural fertiliser as a part of the cycle that keeps the balance in the ecosystem. On all these counts, use of biogas technology is expected to bring about benefits to the environment and the people. It certainly upgrades the age-old inefficient and poor energy use practice into a more efficient and scientific one.


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