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    Côte d'Ivoire's agriculture minister Amadou Gon has visited the biofuels section of the Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris, one of the largest fairs of its kind. According to his communication office, the minister is looking into drafting a plan for the introduction of biofuels in the West African country. AllAfrica [*French] - March 13, 2007.

    Biofuels and bioenergy producers in Ireland, a country which just recently passed bioenergy legislation, are allocated excise relief for imported biomass. Unison Ireland (subscription req'd). - March 13, 2007.

    EDF Energies Nouvelles, a subsidiary of energy giant Electricité de France, has announced a move into biofuels, by sealing a preliminary agreement with Alcofinance SA of Belgium. Upon completion of a reserved issue of shares for €23 million, EDF Energies Nouvelles will own 25% of a newly formed company housing Belgium-based Alcofinance's ethanol production and distribution activities. Alcofinance's projects are located in the Ghent Bioenergy Valley. BusinessWire - March 13, 2007.

    Fuel Tech, Inc., today announced a demonstration order for its 'Targeted In-Furnace Injection' program, part of a set of technologies aimed at controlling slagging, fouling, corrosion, opacity and acid plume problems in utility scale boilers. The order was placed by an electric generating facility located in Italy, and will be conducted on two biomass units burning a combination of wood chips and olive husks. BusinessWire - March 9, 2007.

    At a biofuels conference ahead of the EU's Summit on energy and climate change, Total's chief of agricultural affairs says building environmentally friendly 'flexible-fuel' cars only cost an additional €200 (US$263) a vehicle and that, overall, ethanol is cheaper than gasoline. MarketWatch - March 8, 2007.

    During a session of Kazakhstan's republican party congress, President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced plans to construct two large ethanol plants with the aim to produce biofuels for exports to Europe. Company 'KazAgro' and the 'akimats' (administrative units) of grain-growing regions will be charged to develop biodiesel, bioethanol and bioproducts. KazInform - March 6, 2007.

    Saab will introduce its BioPower flex-fuel options to its entire 9-3 range, including Sport Sedan, SportCombi and Convertible bodystyles, at the Geneva auto show. GreenCarCongress - March 2, 2007.

    British oil giant BP plans to invest around US$50 million in Indonesia's biofuel industry, using jatropha oil as feedstock. BP will build biofuel plants with an annual capacity of 350,000 tons for which it will need to set up jatropha curcas plantations covering 100,000 hectares of land, to guarantee supply of feedstock, an official said. Antara [*cache] - March 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has decided to increase the acreage dedicated to biofuel crops -- soybean, rape, sunflower, and sweet potato -- from 1,721 hectares in 2006 to 4,550 hectares this year, the Council of Agriculture said. China Post - March 2, 2007.

    Kinder Morgan Energy Partners has announced plans to invest up to €76/US$100 million to expand its terminal facilities to help serve the growing biodiesel market. KMP has entered into long-term agreements with Green Earth Fuels, LLC to build up to 1.3 million barrels of tankage that will handle approximately 8 million barrels of biodiesel production at KMP's terminals on the Houston Ship Channel, the Port of New Orleans and in New York Harbor. PRNewswire - March 1, 2007.

    A project to build a 130 million euro ($172 million) plant to produce 200,000 cubic metres of bioethanol annually was announced by three German groups on Tuesday. The plant will consume about 600,000 tonnes of wheat annually and when operational in the first half of 2009 should provide about a third of Germany's estimated bioethanol requirements. Reuters - Feb. 27, 2007.

    Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs has announced that government vehicles in Taipei City will begin using E3 fuel, composed of 97% gasoline and 3% ethanol, on a trial basis in 2007. Automotive World - Feb. 27, 2007.

    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.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

The bioeconomy at work: UK finances development of biodegradable plastics for car components

Over the past few years, a lot of effort has gone into the development of efficient, environmently friendly car engines and propulsion technologies. But, as we said earlier, a car itself is still largely made up of products that require a lot of energy to make. These structural components can't be recycled nor do they biodegrade.

To counter this and open the era of oil free, cradle-to-cradle design, the UK announced a research program for the development of super-strong, light-weight plastics made from plant products, which harmlessly biodegrade at the end of their lives. The country's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is providing £278,000 (€414,000/US$546,000) funding towards the £777,000 (€1.1/US$1.5 million) "Combine" ("Commingled Biomaterials from Nature") project to develop plastics durable enough for car doors and boat hulls, which are light-weight, but environmentally friendly, led by bio-plastic developer, NetComposites.
Normal plastics have a half-life of thousands of years. The plastics being created in this project will be strong and lightweight, but will be made from plants, which means they'll eventually and be composted into harmless plant products. Lots of hard work has been done to create greener engines for cars, this takes us the next step by creating environmentally friendly plastics for cars and boats. - UK Minister for Science and Innovation, Malcolm Wicks
The project aims to create a new generation of bioplastics combined with natural fibres. Currently, natural fibres are only available as short fibres for injection moulding or as random mats for compression moulding, neither of which offer sufficient strength or stiffness for structural components. Natural fibre yarns are normally twisted which makes impregnation with viscous thermoplastic resins difficult.

In the 2 1/2 year project, hemp and flax fibres will be processed, spun into continuous filaments and woven into high performance fabrics. These will be combined with bio-plastics such as PLA (polylactic acid, made from starches and sugars) and moulded into parts through vacuum bag moulding and compression moulding. Surface treatments will be used to enhance the bonding of the fibres to the resin. Joining and finishing techniques will be developed for the materials and environmental degradation, compostability and recyclability will be assessed:
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Gordon Bishop, Managing Director of NetComposites said: "The Combine project aims to develop high performance plant-derived plastics for structural parts like car doors by using innovative combinations of natural fibres and bio-plastics. It also aims to create products which are biodegradable, for the first time creating structural materials and products from renewable resources."

NetComposites is also leading a second consortium, called FuturePlas, to develop the next generation of stronger, light-weight recyclable plastics, using high-strength plastic fibres inside plastic products. This 2 1/2 year,
£715,000 project will manufacture and test an industrial safety helmet and prototype a car front-end, as lighter bodies for cars increase performance, while reducing fuel consumption. This is also being part funded with a
Technology Programme grant from the DTI of £316,000.

A spin-off company, Aptiform, has already been created to supply components from these new types of plastic materials.

Picture: field of blooming flax plants.


Anonymous said...

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