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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, November 13, 2006

China's growing thirst for biodiesel

Biodiesel generally takes a backseat to ethanol in China (earlier post), but it apparently had show-stealing allure at the 2006 World Biofuels Symposium in Beijing. With a keen eye on the renewable fuel’s proliferation in Europe and the United States, the world’s fastest-growing economic power wants to go big with biodiesel — if it can overcome some serious feedstock constraints.

Although ethanol is the most high-profile renewable transportation fuel in China, the nation is one of the biggest diesel users in the world, consuming approximately 60 million to how it should look: 70 million tons (16.5 billion to 19 billion gallons) per year. Production of biodiesel, however, has not yet caught up with the country’s appetite for diesel. In 2004, China produced only 60,000 tons (16 million gallons) of biodiesel, which is less than 1 percent of the country’s total diesel production in the previous year. The gap between fuel production and consumption is growing, and any country in this situation has a serious energy security dilemma and must diversify its energy supplies.

Feedstock constraints
The Chinese government is encouraging — if not pushing — the production and use of biofuels in order to meet its mounting transportation fuel needs. Its ethanol ambitions are taking flight, but a lack of available plant oils is hindering the proliferation of biodiesel. China doesn’t have enough arable land resources available to produce the crops commonly used to produce biodiesel: soybeans, rapeseed, palm and castor beans, for example.

In fact, China is already the world’s number one importer of vegetable oil, according to Zongbao Zhao, a professor at China’s Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics. Despite this fact, China is making advances:
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Last year, the country increased biodiesel production to somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 metric tons (30 million and 60 million gallons); under current biofuels development policies, the country is expected to increase its biodiesel production to 2 million tons per year (540 MMgy) by 2010. The federal government of China is expected to release a new implementation plan for the biofuels component of its 2006-’10 planning period by the end the year.

With vegetable oils in tight supply, 80 percent of China’s biodiesel is currently made from recycled waste oil from restaurants. Mark Soutter, an analyst for BBI International and an attendee of the 2006 WBS, recalls speaking with a Chinese citizen at the conference who owns and operates a small biodiesel production facility in southern China that uses duck fat as its principal feedstock. Duck fat is easy to obtain and has a low value as a recycled fat because it tends to have an undesireable flavor, Soutter explains.

The country also has successfully used human sewage as a biodiesel feedstock. "China has made some pretty major advances in terms of recycling human sewage into biodiesel," explaining that metro buses have been powered with a fuel derived from the unsavory raw material.

Innovative bioconversion technologies
According to Zhao, the key to China’s biodiesel industry lies with the use of innovative triacylglycerol resources. Zhao and his biomass conversion team have begun looking at the use of microbial oil in place of vegetable oils or animal fats for biodiesel production. In addition, the Huazhong University of Science and Technology is researching the use of lipases—enzymes that catalyze, or initiate, the hydrolysis of monoglycerides, diglycerides and triglycerides to glycerol and fatty acids—to make biodiesel.

Like the work Zhao is undertaking, other novel biodiesel production technologies emerging in China are still in the research and development stages. Thurmond says few, if any, novel processes have been ramped up to commercial scale. “Since it’s such a new market for biodiesel, finding the kind of data that can be useful for forecasts was very difficult, but putting together the argument for the use of biofuels was not,” he says.


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