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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, October 09, 2006

High representative: biogas can replace all of Germany's natural gas imports from Russia

Fascinating news from Germany: the co-founder of the world's largest biogas firm, Schmack Biogas AG, says that within a few decades the locally produced green gas can replace all of Germany's natural gas imports from Russia, Europe's main supplier. Ulrich Schmack does not say this gratuitously: the successful entrepreneur does so in his position as High Representative for Renewable Energies to the Second Energy Top being held in the coming days by the country's Chancellory in Berlin.

This is very important news to us, because we are staunch advocates of biogas as a renewable, climate-friendly fuel, especially for the developing world. Of all (transport and stationary) fuels, biogas has the lowest CO2 footprint (earlier post). When a major industrial power like Germany heeds Schmack's call, the technology will be boosted and eventually find more acceptance all over the world (and especially so in rapidly emerging countries like China and India, where Germany's engineering tradition as well as its renewable energy efforts are seen as world leading).

Schmack assesses Germany's long-term energy options and starts by saying that the country's decision to phase out nuclear energy stands firm: "The decision is not up for debate." Nuclear energy, the representative adds, is not a renewable or clean energy source anyways. The supply of uranium is already problematic and the long-term supply outlook for high-grade nuclear fuel is not very encouraging. Biogas, Schmack says, grows each year, in a clean way, and does not suffer from supply constraints.

The question is whether biogas can replace a large enough amount of energy in order to counter the nuclear lobby's efforts of reopening the debate about the phase-out: "At the end of 2005, Germany produced 10.5% of all its energy from renewable resources. Each year, the share increases by 2 to 3%. The math is simple: by 2030 and at this pace, green energy will have replaced a huge amount of fossil energy."

Asked whether renewables like biogas aren't too costly to produce, Schmack urges analysts to look at the total costs and to put a value on such issues as geopolitical uncertainties stemming from energy dependence. Moreover, Schmack insists that since biogas is produced locally, by local farmers and entrepreneurs, the state receives taxes from those involved, which are kept inside the country and contribute to its economy.

Ulrich Schmack has a vision, based on sound data and realistic projections, even though many will be surprised to hear it: "In 2030 Germany will produce 40 billion cubic metres (1.4 trillion cubic feet) of biogas per year. By that time we don't need any gas from Russia any longer. The billions of Euros that flow out of the country now to Saudi Arabia and Russia, stay here and will benefit our economy." "Security of supply and buffers against price fluctuations are guaranteed", Schmack adds.

An often recurring 'moral' problem remains, though: is it morally acceptable to use land to grow crops for energy when world hunger is a persistent problem? Schmack: "Man does not live from bread alone, he needs heat and energy too. What's more, people all over the world nowadays spend more of their disposable incomes on energy that on food. There are clear reasons for this". Moreover, for more than 5 decades, European countries have set-aside millions of hectares of land, and even paid farmers not use that land! And 'historically speaking, not long ago we used to grow vast hectarages of oat - the fuel for the horses that drove both agriculture and urban transport":
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In this sense, bioenergy and biofuels mean a return to the energy paradigm of earlier times. The alternative is a global climate catastrophe that will have much more damaging effects on the poor, whose food security will be threatened even more.

The energy top in Berlin will thoroughly investigate the real efficiency of different bioenergy systems and analyse projections of efficiency increases. Schmack says this is a routine job, and points to the fact that he will push for more investments in highly efficient combined-heat-and-power (CHP) systems: "We have to get more out of our energy sources." In order to achieve this, the representative adds, decentralisation and localisation is of key importance. The integration of smaller energy systems based on biomass, wind and geothermal, in urban networks must get priority.

Schmack is confident that Germany's Energy Minister, Michael Glos, who recently showed some renewed interest for nuclear, will react positively to his vision and data about the potential of biogas. The reason for his optimism: recently Schmack Biogas AG opened a plant Prichsenstadt which powers the milling company of one of Glos's sons. Present at the opening were Germany's Economy Minister and... father Glos. And what struck Schmack most is that both, whispering like conspirators, "have literally confessed that biomass is our future."

More information:

Mittelbayerische Zeitung: Biogas könnte Gas aus Russland ersetzen - Ulrich Schmack setzt sich heute beim Gipfel im Kanzleramt für erneuerbare Energien ein - Oct. 9, 2006


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