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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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Thursday, November 30, 2006

'Biofuels Markets Africa' event kicks off

Today, the first-ever conference on the opportunities to develop biofuels in Africa kicks off in Cape Town, South Africa. The two-day Biofuels Markets Africa event has a very interesting agenda bringing together speakers from government, academia, business and civil society who will be addressing a wide range of issues crucial to the development of a viable green fuel industry in sub-Saharan Africa.

The potential for the production of bioenergy and biofuels on the continent is very large: according to research by the IEA's Bioenergy Task 40 group, which studies sustainable international bioenergy trade, sub-Saharan Africa's technical potential is projected to stand at around 317 Exajoules by 2050 under optimal conditions. This is the maximum amount of bioenergy that could be produced sustainably, without causing environmental damage and without jeopardising food supplies for growing populations. To give an idea, 317 Exajoules of energy roughly amounts to 142 million barrels of oil equivalent per day - an immense amount.

But just as the technical potential is immense, so are the challenges to transform it into real outputs (earlier post). Particularly in Africa. It is these difficulties and barriers that take center stage at the Biofuels Markets Africa event.

The global context
Day one of the conference presents an overview of biofuels developments globally and focuses on important aspects such as the link between oil prices and biofuels, longterm fossil fuel price projections and the scale of the economic opportunity in Africa for the development of a green energy industry.

Importantly, Brazil’s 30 year old success story with ethanol is presented to show the possibilities and lessons Africa's nascent biofuel industry can draw from that country's experience. The crucial question will be asked: can African countries emulate the success of the Brazilian biofuels market? Something Biopact takes to heart will be discussed as well, namely the potential for South-South cooperation in the sector. Brazilian speakers will highlight opportunities for the country to work together with Africa and to share knowledge, technology and expertise.

Europe's experience with biofuels is radically different from Brazil's - with the EU's strategies circling around fixed production targets and its emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but with its agricultural policies mired by subsidies and trade barriers. The conference asks what Africa can learn from the EU's supranational strategies, but also how it can avoid certain European mistakes.

Finally, India is a country that has recognised biofuel development as being of strategic importance to its longterm energy security. The subcontinent is rapidly becoming a strong player when it comes to creating new technologies for the conversion of biomass into bioproducts, something the African continent can aim to replicate:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The role of governments
Day one continues with a set of sessions on regulation and policy work essential to market development in Africa. After a case-study which focuses on Ghana's policy framework and legislation, the session will address issues such as government incentives, the government’s role in the industry, ways to reducing dependency on fossil fuel imports, enhancing energy security, and ways of incorporating rural communities into the planting of various crops.

An interesting presentation on cultivating jatropha throughout Africa, with case-studies from South Africa, Madagascar, Zambia and Swaziland, will be given by a company which is also looking at using biofuels in mining operations - something we have focused on here at the Biopact (earlier post).

Food and fuel
The all important "food versus fuel or food and fuel" debate is highlighted as well by a speaker from the FAO. The potential competition for production factors between food, fibre and fuel will be analysed as will the question of whether there is an impact on agricultural commodity markets when biofuels are produced on a large scale. The FAO analyst will look at strategies for creating synergies between sectors and how they might work in sub-Saharan Africa in particular.

The Clean Development Mechanism and African biofuels
Finally, the conference looks at the UN's Clean Development Mechanism and how it applies to the African context. As we reported earlier, the African continent is lagging behind winning CDM-projects and efforts to change this situation are urgently needed. Speakers will be looking specifically at CDM in industry/emissions reduction and at what factors are holding companies back to implement such projects. Ways as to how the CDM can add a revenue stream, will be presented alongside a case-study from a successful project in Kwa Zulu Natal.

Tomorrow we present an overview of day two of this important event, and we will be reporting back on the sessions as soon as they are available online.

More information:
Biofuels Markets Africa: program of the conference [*.pdf]
The organiser of the event is GreenPowerConferences, whose website can be found here.


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