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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 02, 2006

Micro-biogas plants for energy independence at the household level

Most biofuel systems can be implemented on a vast scale in a centralised setting to yield scale-advantages. In such a setting, feedstocks can be brought in from across the planet, via a long logistical chain and still contribute to reducing CO2 emissions (see the IEA Bioenergy Task 40 studies on GHG emissions and long transport chains of biomass feedstocks). But they can also be scaled down and figure in a decentralised energy system in which case they rely on locally produced biomass. Biogas is no different.

We have been following the green gas's tracks and saw how it is becoming an important element in large-scale energy systems. In Europe, biogas is more and more seen as a viable transport fuel (in fact, of more than 70 different transport fuels and fuel paths, 'Compressed Biogas', CBG, is the cleanest). A German government energy advisor even thinks the green gas can replace all of Germany's natural gas imports in the long term (earlier post). European researchers are developing dedicated biogas crops that yield more energy per hectare than any liquid biofuel. Some countries in the South are planning to mix biogas into the natural gas grid.

But the elegance of much smaller biogas systems can hardly be ignored, especially when they are introduced in the developing world. They utilize household waste and generate a clean energy source that can substitute for fuel-wood. This way, they take away some of the pressures on local forests. The gas also tackles the important issue of indoor smoke pollution and sooth particles, which form a real killer in the kitchen. Finally, traditional wood stoves contribute considerably to climate change (earlier post), so replacing them by biogas systems at the household level benefits the fight against global warming.

We want to highlight two interesting developments in small-scale biogas technology, one that centers around lowering the cost of a biogas plant, and one that increases its efficiency. Cooperating with African engineers, a company called Superflex has succeeded in constructing a simple, portable biogas unit that can produce sufficient gas for the cooking and lighting needs of an African family.
The system has been adapted to meet the efficiency and style demands of a modern African consumer. It is intended to match the needs and economic resources that we believe exist in small-scale economies. The orange biogas plant produces biogas from organic materials, such as human and animal stools. For a modest sum, an African family will be able to buy such a biogas system and achieve self-sufficiency in energy. The plant produces approx. 4 cubic metres of gas per day from the dung from 2-3 cattle. This is enough for a family of 8-10 members for cooking purposes and to run one gas lamp in the evening.
The plants are likely to reach a production price of around 190-250 US$ since all materials involved are relatively cheap. A copy of the system in Cambodia made from local materials cost even less, around US$50, which might be reasonable for an African family living on less than a dollar a day.

Another development comes from West-Bengal, India, where a US sponsored research program has resulted in an efficient biogas powered micro-turbine system that was scaled down to meet the energy requirements of a typical village:
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A demonstration plant was built in the village of Purulia. The micro-turbine project, touted as the first of its kind in India, will generate 30 kilowatt of power and cater to about 100 families and a local dairy farm. The project was initiated in September 2003 when the US-Asia Environmental Partnership forum provided funds for a pre-feasibility study on the potential of micro-turbine technology based on biomass/biogas applications.

The entire project was coordinated by the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency headed by director, S P Gon Chowdhury.

Micro-turbine technology is an efficient, compact, ultra-low emission way to produce electricity and heat for combined application. The US-Asia Environmental Partnership pursued the pilot project involving the micro-turbine technology from the US. It was expected that it could answer India’s quest for decentralised energy generation and make power available to the 94,000 remote non-electrified villages in the country. Micro-turbines are small power generating systems that produce between 25-500 kilowatt of power.


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