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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 16, 2006

From coal to biomass: Electrabel's world premiere

Biomass, the oldest form of renewable energy, has been used for thousands of years. However, its relative share of use has declined with the emergence of fossil fuels. In 2002, the Belgian utility Electrabel decided to convert a 50-year old coal-fired power plant into one firing only biomass, thereby becoming a pioneer in large-scale bioenergy production. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has an interesting overview [*.pdf] of this project. The case-study is of interest to the Biopact because Electrabel's Les Awirs plant imports biomass from all over the world, developing countries included. The development of this industry promises to open a world market for large-scale biomass trade, in which the global South stands to play a key role.

Currently some 13% of the world’s primary energy supply is covered by biomass. With environmental effects such as climate change coming to the forefront, people everywhere are rediscovering the advantages of biomass. Potential benefits include:
  • Reducing fossil carbon emissions if managed (produced, transported, used) in a sustainable manner;
  • Enhancing energy security by diversifying energy sources and utilizing local resources;
  • Providing additional revenues for the agricultural and forestry sectors;
  • Reducing waste (see the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Biomass Issue Brief 2006)
Aims of a utility trying to go green
Based in Belgium, Electrabel, 98.62% owned by French giant SUEZ, Electrabel had 15,794 employees and revenues of € 12.2 billion (US$ 15.5 billion) in 2005. All of Electrabel’s strategic decisions take full account of environmental protection and sustainable development. In converting the coal-fired plant in Les Awirs into one firing only biomass, Electrabel aims to:
  • Manage its carbon dioxide emissions;
  • Encourage the production of electricity from renewable energy sources;
  • Obtain 300,000 green certificates that allow Electrabel to fulfill the obligation established by the Walloon Region and avoid paying penalties of some € 100 per lacking green MWh;
  • Create the possibility of offering customers green electricity;
  • Recycle the residual raw materials from forestry (the cultivation of forest trees for timber or other purposes);
  • Diversify the fuels used to supply energy;
  • Save fossil fuel reserves;
  • Increase the share of green electricity from 15% to 18% within Electrabel Group.
Les Awirs, a world premiere
In Les Awirs, near Liège in Belgium, Electrabel has retrofitted a pulverised coal power plant for using biomass as its sole fuel. This biomass is made up of pelletized wood dust that is again pulverised at the power plant. This method of producing electricity is a world premiere.

The production process comprises: production and supply of wood pellets, grinding these into wood dust on site and burning the wood dust using dedicated burners in the former pulverised coal boiler:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The biomass used is recycled forestry/wood conversion waste which otherwise would be lost and create useless greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The biomass used in the plant comes from producers worldwide, but with a particular focus on local Belgian production in order to avoid transportation costs and environmental burden.

The modification of this site has had a substantial impact on the surrounding communities and those involved in supplying the plant with wood pellets. It has:

-Created direct (local) employment on site for at least 10 years (duration for the grant of green certificates);
-Created indirect employment and economic development (forestry, wood pellets producer, shipping companies);
-Improved the quality of the local environment by reducing emissions in the air and road traffic required for waste product disposal;
-Recycled an industrial site, thereby maintaining local electricity production and creating the option to supply green electricity;
-Recycled the residual products from forestry, up to 350,000 metric tons per year;
-Avoided CO2 emissions of around 500,000 metric tons per year;
-Saved some 280,000 metric tons of coal annually;
-Added additional products to the company’s portfolio available to about 200,000 household customers (green electricity) while enhancing the company’s image (creating “goodwill”).

The plant has a net electric efficiency of 34% and is not a cogeneration plant that would have required getting access to a potential customer for the residual heat.

The market price of wood pellets today is about € 130/ton which makes it comparable to natural gas, but twice as expensive as coal.


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