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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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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

India's bright green idea: compressed biogas for cars

We have been making the case for the use of compressed biogas (CBG) as an automotive fuel for a long time now. A recent EU well-to-wheel study showed that of over 70 different automotive fuels and fuel paths, biogas is by far the most environmentally friendly and yielding considerably more well-to-tank energy than any other biofuel including second generation fuels like cellulosic ethanol, methanol or BTL-diesel (earlier post). Biogas can be produced in a decentralised manner from a wide range of organic waste streams (municipal, agricultural or industrial waste) making feedstock supplies highly dynamic. But more and more producers are using dedicated energy crops (such as sorghum and sudan grass, or specially bred biogas 'super' maize and hybrid grasses) to increase yields. The anaerobic fermentation of biogas maize, for example, yields some 4000 liters of petro-diesel equivalent energy. In Europe, several countries are betting big on using CBG, with Sweden, Norway, Germany and Austria all recently opening CBG pumps for cars. Three car manufacturers have CBG-compatible vehicles on the market, often in a bi- or tri-fuel configuration (earlier post).

Meanwhile, several developing countries have demonstrated that it is possible to introduce compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles on a massive scale. Pakistan for example succeeded in getting over 1 million CNG cars on the road, in a crash-program that lasted two years and that consisted of building compressor outlets and tank stations (earlier post).

In a very important development, India is now going a step further and is taking concrete action towards realising the vision of using compressed biogas to fuel its rapidly growing car fleet. Over 70% of the world's longterm (2030) growth in demand for automotive fuels will come from rapidly developing countries like India, which is why this news is so important. If a country like India succeeds in proving the viability of CBG, then other countries in the Global South will follow (see the argumentation on this mechanism in professor John Mathews' Biofuels Manifesto).

The technology to compress biogas has already been devised, and it will not be too long before our cars will be running on CBG. In India biogas is primarily used in rural households for cooking purposes. This biogas can be purified to match natural gas standards by use of advanced technologies (earlier post), and fed into the natural gas grid. India recently announced it has started doing exactly this (earlier post). The purified form will match the methane content of CNG which is 95%.

The Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi (IIT), and the Indian institute of Science (IIS) in Bangalore have already brought to life such technologies, with the IIT filing a patent for their invention which is in the process of being sealed.

The Indian government has given licence to Delhi-based Indian Compressors Ltd to incorporate this technology. With regard to compressing purified biogas, Gaushala society of Kanpur and Gorakhpur have devised feasible methods, as has Didwania Compressor Works. “The CBG produced can be used in the same cylinders that store CNG and will match the efficiency of CNG,” said a government official. He added that compression of purified biogas and the marketing of CBG can be taken care of by the existing CNG stations. The government will make a beginning with pilot projects for use of CBG in vehicles. Gail has already been roped in to identify locations for such projects:
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Being a product of cowdung, sewage, sludge, non-edible oils and organic fractions of municipal solid waste and crop residues not suitable for fodder, biogas when used as a fuel, recycles carbon dioxide, not emitting a net amount. This makes it a cleaner fuel than CNG.

To add to automotive, biogas can also be used in diesel engines that are used for irrigation. According to data by the ministry of non conventional energy sources, with 8m diesel engines being used for irrigation, our farmers can save on 75% of diesel by use of biogas which can be supplied through a pipeline to the engines.

For this, the biogas digestive plants have to be set up in farms. While some rural areas of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have already started such practices, Greaves India is already selling diesel engines that use only biogas as fuel. However, for such engines, additional batteries are essential.


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