<body> -------------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home » Archive » Bioeconomy
Nature Blog Network

    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.

Creative Commons License

Monday, December 18, 2006

The bioeconomy at work: oil crisis boosts African sisal industry

Petroleum is the raw material for thousands of the products we use on a daily basis, from our children's toys to our favorite DVD's and our laptops. Higher oil prices means higher manufacturing costs for all these products. On top of this, scientists continuously find new evidence of how damaging to the environment the oil-based goodies really are. They don't degrade well or can't be recycled, which is why they must be burned which results in carbon dioxide emissions and toxic fumes. Or they poison our oceans and end up in the food chain, with unknown consequences for our own health (earlier post).

The bioeconomy offers a sane and environmentally friendly alternative. A large number of products from the petrochemical industry - from plastics and fuels to fertilisers and pesticides - have already found plant and bio-based alternatives (see our quick look at plant-based car parts and our overview of bioplastics and biopolymers). Considerable R&D efforts are underway to stimulate this bright green future, with some of the world's most brilliant scientists working in it.

But it doesn't always take top research to enter the bioeconomy. Sisal farmers in Tanzania are experiencing boom times simply because their product is now being preferred over the oil-based alternative on price grounds.

Industrial fibres
Sisal is a tropical crop that has been cultivated for centuries for its strong, durable fibres. From the 19th century onwards, the plant has spread out over the planet and today it is the second most important fibre crop, after cotton. Sisal yields industrial fibres used in the manufacture of ropes, yarns, geotextiles, luxury articles (such as designer furniture and carpets) and even in car parts. More and more it is being used to replace (cancerogenic) asbestos and fibreglass. Besides the fact that it is biodegradable, sisal's special properties make it attractive for many new applications and products (such as fire-resistant building materials).

In East Africa, the largest production zone, sisal is an estate crop, employing a considerable number of people (in Tanzania alone the industry generates 90,000 jobs). And farmers and plantation owners are now experiencing a boost, because more and more manufacturers are choosing sisal over petroleum-based synthetic fibres, such as nylon:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

J.J. Ngelime, a sisal consultant to Tanzania's Parastatal Sector Reform Commission (PSRC) is quoted by the Dar-Es-Salaam based Tanzania Daily as saying that "In recent months, demand for sisal products by foreign manufacturers has increased. For example, sisal has special use in the manufacturing of Mercedes Benz cars. More than 20kg of sisal products are needed in the manufacture of Mercedes Benz Class C car. In the USA, the manufacturers of lifting cables are now obliged by law to use sisal cores."

He added that "This is a great opportunity for sisal exporters from Tanzania, because sisal fibres from Tanzania have a competitive advantage over those from Mexico, Brazil or China".

The consultant did not give comparative prices because, he said, the situation on the world market was currently in favour of sisal exports from countries like Tanzania. Ngelime continues: "Nylon is a by-product of crude oil. The oil price is steadily increasing and moreover nylon is unfriendly to the environment because it does not decompose easily. The two reasons have led to increased demand for sisal products on the world market".

Tanzania's Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Stephen Wassira, said over the weekend that new strategies to increase sisal output in the country are being studied. The government has reviewed its sisal policy in a bid to address issues that are impacting badly against the industry.

Originally there were about 82 sisal estates in Tanzania that were owned by the government, but many of those are being privatized. The leading investor in the country is Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (METL). The Managing Director of METL, Mr Mohammed Dewji, said his company is aware of the new opportunity available in the industry and is resolved to tap it.

As a result of his investments, Mr Dewji said, METL has become Tanzania's single largest sisal producer, contributing almost twenty per cent to the country's total sisal output. He said METL aims to increase output to 15,000 tonnes at full capacity.

Many tropical crops have different (traditional) purposes and often one single crop can be used for the prodution of both food, fodder, fuel and fibre - the four "F"'s. This makes them particularly interesting as feedstocks for the bioeconomy in its most primitive state. Sisal is no different.

Mr Dewji has understood this and says that his company "is also looking for opportunities to diversify the sisal business in the areas of sisal biogas and sisal pulp for the paper industry".

After all, the harvest and processing of sisal leaves, which contain the fibres, leaves a large amount of unused biomass residue behind. Roughly 5 percent of all harvested and processed biomass is currently converted into useful products. The other 95% make for a potential biofuel feedstock. With high energy prices, the idea of using sisal waste for bioenergy becomes attractive.

In the 1960s, Tanzania was the leading sisal producer in the world with an annual output of 230,000 tonnes. But in the 1970s production started to decline because of a fall in prices, cause by the massive introduction of synthetic, oil-based fibres. Current output in the country stands at 20,000 tonnes with annual revenues of US$17 million. The current target of the Tanzanian government is to increase the output to 50,000 tons by 2015.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home