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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

Eight countries create sugarcane bioproducts and bioenergy consortium

Earlier we reported on the great potential of sugarcane as a crop from which many (non-fuel) bioproducts can be made, such as bioplastics, detergents, tinctures, drugs, glues, gels, and even biopolymers resembling nylon (earlier post). Now as a result of an initiative by the Mauritian Sugar Industry Research Institute (MSIRI), eight countries have decided [*French] to form an international research and technology consortium aimed at increasing the use of sugarcane biomass for energy. Cooperation will go beyond research into ethanol production, which is now well established, and will therefor focus on using byproducts (bagasse, vinasse, molasses) to produce new liquid biofuels, energy and high-value bioproducts.

The decision was taken last week during a workshop in Brazil, organised by the Mauritius-based International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists (ISSCT). Jean-Claude Autrey, director of the MSIRI, already proposed the formation of a consortium in 2005 during his term as president of the executive committee of the ISSCT. At a meeting in Durban earlier this year, scientists from 8 countries decided to give it their go-ahead. The consortium now consists of science institutions from Australia, Brazil, South Africa, the United States, Thailand, India, Germany and Mauritius.

Collective efforts needed

According to Jean-Claude Autrey, research into the use of biomass and technologies related to it is very expensive, with each planned project costing millions of dollars, but the benefits will be considerable. Because of the costs and the sophistication of the research, a collective scientific effort is needed. Uniting scientists from different countries under a consortium will strengthen their leverage when applying for funds from international agencies, Autrey says.

In order to go beyond ethanol research, priority will be given to biomass conversion technologies, such as gasification of bagasse, and to the utilisation of sugar cane byproducts for the production of green specialty chemicals and biopolymers with a high added value. Using genetic engineering and sampling, new cane varieties will be developed with specific products in mind:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Gasification of bagasse
During the first meeting of the consortium, whose chair is held by the MSIRI, scientists from Thailand, Brazil, the US, Australia and Mauritius focused on gasification technologies. Besides bagasse (the residue left over after crushing the sugar rich stems), sugarcane yields a considerable amount of non-sugar biomass, the energy of which can be used to produce electricity. The goal is to increase the efficiency with which this energy is extracted. Researchers estimate that increases of up to 250% can be made in this regard.

When more efficient gasification technologies arise, it becomes potentially feasible to design dedicated sugar cane varieties with high fibre contents and calorific values.

The small island state of Mauritius has 50 years experience in using cane biomass for energy, and the creation of the consortium is seen as a recognition of this expertise. Meanwhile, young Mauritian and Réunionese scientists are continuing the tradition of researching new applications for cane, with one group working on specialty chemicals of high value (earlier post). Recently, Mauritius took its own committment to creating a vibrant biofuels industry a step further by creating a biofuel alliance uniting other Indian Ocean island states and China and Malaysia (earlier post).


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