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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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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Brazil to double, triple sugarcane hectarage

Earlier, the president of Sao Paulo's 'Cane Agroindustry Union' outlined his projections for the Brazilian ethanol market, estimating that by 2014 the country will have doubled its output of the renewable fuel. With US$ 10 billion planned for investment in 92 new sugar mills and ethanol plants, the land base would have to expand considerably from its current hectarage of 5,5 million hectares.

Today, Luis Guedes, Brazil's agriculture minister, focused on the issue during an international biofuels conference in Brasilia and announced the country can double or even triple the land devoted to sugar cane in the next few years. Guedes is betting that the advantages of cane over corn as a feedstock for ethanol will keep it a leader in the nascent global biofuels market.

The country's current cane plantations use slightly less than 1% of Brazil's arable land base. The main production zones can be found in Central and Southern states, with one state, Sao Paulo, producing around 50% of the country's entire sugar output. The other major growing area can be found in the poorer and more arid Nordeste region (click map to enlarge):
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Brazil has become a leader in the ethanol boom in recent years after developing cars that run on the fuel, a plant-derived gasoline substitute that can be made most efficiently -- in terms of production costs -- from sugar cane. Current ethanol production nears 17 billion liters and exports more than tripled in two years, hitting 2.6 billion liters in 2005, as other countries saw the appeal of the green fuel. Today Brazil sells ethanol to Asia, Europe and North America, but prices are volatile because demand is still erratic and a proper futures market has not yet developed for hedging. "Our proposal is that other countries start producing ethanol," says Guedes. "To become a commodity, we have to have several suppliers in the global market."

In fact, the United States is now the world's biggest ethanol producer but it is not expected to export and will likely continue to import the fuel. The United States is the leading destination for Brazilian ethanol exports. U.S. ethanol is almost entirely from corn, which is costlier because it demands more water, area, fertilizer and energy to grow.

Critics of the U.S. renewable fuels program point out that corn ethanol produces only about 1.5 times the energy it takes to grow versus about 8.3 times for cane ethanol.

Cane mills say that Brazilian ethanol, which is subsidy-free, is competitive with gasoline prices as long as world oil remains above about $30 to $35 a barrel, whereas U.S. ethanol production from corn is even now heavily dependent on a 51 cents-a-gallon federal tax credit and enjoys hundreds of subsidies (earlier post).

Currently, the agriculture ministry estimates Brazil needs to plant 3 million more hectares with sugar cane -- far below Guedes' estimate -- to meet foreign and domestic demand in 2013. At present, Brazil produces 450 million tonnes of cane on 6 million hectares.

Some environmentalists have criticized Brazil's fast growing ethanol program, saying cane crop expansion could threaten rainforest. But Guedes said Brazil could double the area planted without cutting down any trees if it used only degraded pastureland and already deforested areas.

Brazilian ethanol is currently produced in a way researchers deem to be 'sustainable'. A recent assessment by the International Energy Agency's Bioenergy Task 40 compared the ethanol production process to sustainability criteria drawn up by the Dutch government (the only government in the world to have created such specific criteria), and concluded that on most of the criteria, Brazil's fuel scores well (earlier post).


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