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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 13, 2006

Shipping industry waking up to the biofuels call - BioShip

On July 2 of this year, the cargo ship Anna Desgagnés (picture) delivered a cargo of heavy machinery and trucks to several Atlantic ports. Its final destination was the bay of Resolute, one of Canada's most Northern and coldest harbors. In addition to this routine cargo, the 17,850MT ship carried other loads: a message of innovation, a wake-up call to the shipping industry, and some hundred tonnes of biodiesel.

Rothsay Biodiesel, a division of Maple Leaf Inc., supplied the 115,000 litres of biofuel, in the context of the project 'BioShip'. The generator of the Anna Desgagnés ran on B20 fuel (20% bio and 80% petro), during its 38,000 kilometer journey. After reaching its final destination, researchers from Canada's Centre de Technologie Environnementale will measure the exact emission levels of the generator which are then to be compared with results taken earlier when the Anna Desgagnés ran on ordinary bunker fuel. First estimates put the CO2 emission reductions for the ship at 400 tons per year.

Even though the world trade fleet is one of the largest oil consuming sectors and one of the big contributors to dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, it is only now waking up to the biofuels call. Let us have a look at some basic numbers about this transport sector:
  • According to the WGBU's data, the entire world trade fleet in 2001 consisted of approximately 41,000 cargo and passenger vessels (over 300 RT), amongst those are some 10,000 tankers, 6,000 ships for dry bulk articles, 2,600 container ships, 18,000 general cargo and roll-on-roll-off-freighters, 2,500 combined cargo-passenger ships and ferries, as well as 1,500 passenger ships.
  • A recent study from the University of Delaware (USA), the world trade fleet consumes approx. 280 million tons of oil or 2 times more than the entire German economy (approx. 125 million tons).
  • Experts from Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (London) estimate that shipping traffic generates 7% of the total worldwide output of sulphur dioxide (SOx), and is thus one of the main causes of climate-damaging gases. A special survey of the WGBU (2002) reaches a similar conclusion: global shipping traffic is responsible for approx. 7% of the CO2 emissions of the traffic sector, or for approx. 2% of global CO2 emissions. Furthermore shipping accounts for approx. 7% of all SO2 and 11-12% of all NOx emissions.
  • Cargo shipping is one of the main causes of climate-damaging emissions and thus contributes substantially to environmental pollution. According to a study from the University of Delaware (11/2003), cargo shipping emits the same amount of nitric oxides as the entire USA. Additionally, according to investigations by the German journal “Bild der Wissenschaft 1/2006”, commercial shipping is the 3rd largest source of climate-effecting toxic substances after industry and road traffic.
  • The biggest environmental problem is that 90% of ship diesels (the standard propulsion for medium to large tankers, bulk barrier and container ships are slowly-operating two-stroke diesel engines) run on a comparatively cheap, but highly contaminated fuel oil. The low-grade fuel oil is a viscous substance, which is a by-product residual at the end of crude oil production. It consists of all the components of crude oil unusable for the production of petrol or diesel fuel. Fuel oil with low sulphur levels (MDO/MGO quality) costs almost twice as much as the IFO 180 and IFO 380 qualities predominantly in use.
  • Total emissions from the world's trading fleet: CO2: 813 million tons per year (in 2001); NOx: 21,4 million tons per year (in 2001); SO2: 12,0 million tons per year (in 2000)
  • During the combustion of fuel oil large quantities of toxic substances pass into the air. In comparison to other substances fuel oil has characteristics causing considerable environmental pollution. The combustion of fuel oil mainly produces nitric oxides (NOx). A 90-95% reduction of NOx emissions through, for example, the installation of ship catalysts, requires the investment of approx. 40,000 Euros per Megawatt (MW) installed propulsion power. Additionally, costs for operating supplies and increased fuel consumption have to be covered.
  • Nitric oxides (NOx) react with hydrocarbons (HC) under the influence of sunlight, generating ozone and leading to smog. Sulphur oxides can aggravate respiratory illnesses and are a cause of “acid rain”. Ozone leads to breathing difficulties in humans and damages flora.

The Anna Desgagnés and its marine biodiesel does not come too late. In the future, substantial cost pressures will arise for ship owners due to the introduction of emission-dependent charges in cargo shipping. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a sub-organisation of the UN, is responsible for ship safety and the prevention of pollution caused by ships at an international level. In order to reduce air pollution caused by ships the IMO enacted laws on 19th May 2005 (MARPOL 73/78, Annex VI) regulating threshold values for the emission of SOx and NOx and controlling the emission of ozone-reducing substances by ships. These laws include the stipulation of a maximum sulphur level of 4.5% in heavy oil internationally, and a maximum sulphur level of 1.5% in ‘SOx Emission Control Areas’. The English Channel is a SOx Emission Control Area, as the Baltic Sea will be from the beginning of 2006, and the North Sea from the beginning of 2007. The regulation stipulates that ships can either be fitted with a flue able to clean waste gases or with an arbitrary technology which reduces SOx emissions.

Additionally, the IMO is preparing for the implementation of a CO2-indexing-scheme in order to reduce the CO2-emissions of ships. Ships with low CO2-emissions will be in a favourable position with regards to emission-dependent charges:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Aware of these measures, the BioShip project has called on a large number of actors in Canada to test the viability of biofuels for the marine industry. Participants in the project are Transports Canada, Environnement Canada, the Centre de Recherche Innovation Maritime, the Groupe Sine Nomine et the company Transport Desgagnés Inc. Most of the funding comes from Environnement Canada.

The project follows in the footsteps of two previous projects, called BioMer and BioPêche, which tested marine biodiesel in respectively cruise ships and fishing fleets. BioShip now targets the much larger trade fleet. According to Mme Carole Campeau, spokesperson for Transport Desgagnés, the results so far have been very promising, with the biodiesel showing an increased engine performance in all three of the tested categories of ships. Amongst the main advantages is the fact that no modification of existing bunker fuel based engine systems is required. In fact, the marine biodiesel acts as a lubricant and cleans the system, which is already adapted to the roughness of heavy fuel oil. When it comes to using the biodiesel in the cold areas of northern Canada, there were no problems as long as the biodiesel content of the fuel did not exceed 20%.

Researchers of the BioShip project sum up some facts about marine biodiesel:

-it is 10 times less toxic than table salt and as biodegradable as sugar. Therefor it is highly suitable in ecologically fragile marine environments.

-marine biodiesel acts as a superior lubricant and its use increases overall engine performance; it also saves on the lifetime of engine parts

-marine biodiesel is renewable, reduces CO2 and non-GHG emissions

-handling and transporting marine biodiesel is safer than doing the same with its petroleum counterpart

More information:

Project outline: Project BioShip [*.pdf], Groupe Desgagnés.

EnviroZine (Environnement Canada), number 69: L'industrie du transport maritime sonde les eaux au moyen du projet de navire au biodiesel - Oct. 2006


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