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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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Friday, October 27, 2006

Chinese top official dismisses coal-to-liquids as irresponsible and inefficient

Quicknote climate change
China is massively investing in coal infrastructures to meet its insatiable demand for energy. Eighty per cent of the country's electricity already comes from coal, and there are plans for 544 new coal-fired power stations. This makes China the future nightmare of all governments who take dangerous climate change serious. In an even worse development, the rising giant has also been investing in coal-to-liquids (CTL) facilities, aimed at producing synthetic diesel to be used for transport. South-Africa's Sasol, a pioneer in coal-to-liquids technolgy, has partnered with Chinese companies on a CTL project, as has Shell.

Current CTL technologies are derivatives of the original Fischer-Tropsch process created by two German coal researchers in the 1920s. In the basic process, the producer gasifies the coal to create a synthetic gas, which then is treated to create a variety of liquid fuels and chemicals.

For the first time, a Chinese top official is now publicly dismissing these CTL investments as irresponsible and inefficient. Half of China's cars will use cleaner fuels instead, such as energy-efficient gas and biofuels by 2025, he said. Feng Fei, director of the industrial economics research department with the Development Research Center of China's State Council - the comprehensive policy research and consulting institution operating directly under the central government of the People's Republic of China - told an audience of energy experts at a seminar that  "biofuels and hydrogen are the ultimate substitutes for fossil fuels" (more about China's ambitious biofuels program, here). According to Fei, oil made from coal, which is extremely resource intensive, must be dismissed: "The biggest problems of turning coal into oil are its low energy efficiency and high emission of carbon dioxide in the production process."
Three to five tons of high-quality coal is needed to produce a ton of diesel, bringing the whole energy consumption to two to three times that of gasoline-driven cars, while the burning of the fuel emits 50 to 100 percent more carbon dioxide than that of gasoline.
 With a larger reserve of coal than oil, China can make oil from coal as part of the country's strategic reserves, but large scale of production runs against China's goals to improve the efficiency of energy use and to cut pollution, said Feng.
  China has ascertained oil reserves of 24.8 billion tons and coal reserves of more than one trillion tons.   China is estimated to need 450 million tons of petroleum a year by 2020, with more than half to be imported [entry ends here].
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C. Scott Miller, EDP said...

Interesting quotes from the Fei. Ethanol, which is considered a biofuel, can be cleanly made from coal.

China is known for mining some of the most sulfurous coal on the planet and - because of their lack of regulatory controls - combusting it in spite of its toxic emissions. East Germany had the same problem until they merged with Western Germany. At that time they stopped burning their coal and even stopped mining it because there was no clean way to use it.

But united Germany would like to mine this coal again. So, they are looking at CTL. They are looking at syngas fermentation - taking the scrubbed gasified syngas and cleanly converting it to ethanol, not diesel, while co-generating electricity from the heat. Is it "energy efficient" - probably not in comparison to straight combustion of the coal. But the social costs of combustion pollution makes the CT ethanol process a feasible option and cost competitive (depending on gas prices and political factors).

Mind you, I'm not crazy about opening up more coal mines anywhere, but even sulfurous coal and fossil fuel derivatives like pet-coke can be cleanly converted to ethanol (which is estimated to emit 12% less greenhouse gas than gasoline). In a gradual transition from fossil to biomass, the ability of using fossil fuels blended with waste as feedstock for syngas fermentation becomes an important capability.

6:42 PM  

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