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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, December 14, 2006

Biogas from oil palm waste in Thailand

Sugar cane ethanol partly gets its very positive energy balance (8 to 1 and even 10 to 1) from the fact that 'waste' biomass from the canes (bagasse) is burned to produce electricity. This power is then used to operate the sugar and ethanol processing plants, while excess electricity is fed into the national grid (earlier post).

So far, the oil palm industry in Asia has not used its vast waste streams in such an efficient manner. In fact, it uses less than 10% of the available energy from its plantations (that energy is contained in the oil). Up to 90% of the biomass from such a plantation -- palm fronds, kernel shells, empty fruit bunches, fibres, trunks -- is considered to be 'waste' and is simply burned in the open air, without recuperating the energy contained in it. Moreover, when a palm oil mill processes palm fruits and palm kernels into oil, a vast amount of sludge called 'POME' (palm oil mill effluent) is released. Most producers create ponds where this POME is left to settle (see pic); all the while, it releases copious amounts of both carbon dioxide and methane. It has been known for quite a while that this effluent yields significant amounts of biogas, that could be used to power the processing plants. Per hectare, palm oil potentially yields some 200 cubic metres of biogas from POME (earlier post).

Luckily, more and more palm oil refiners are starting to tap this vast amount of waste for energy (see plans to use the cellulose rich waste biomass from palm for the production of cellulosic ethanol), or for the production of specialty bio-products (such as biodegradable plastics from palm oil mill effluent - *.pdf). Rising oil and gas prices make these options more and more attractive. In this context, a leading crude palm oil producer in Thailand, Univanich Palm Oil Plc, now announces that it will invest more than 600 million baht (€13/US$17 million) in three 'very small power plants' (VSPPs) fuelled by biogas over the next couple of years.

Managing director John Harvey Clendon said two of the plants would have a generating capacity of 950 kilowatts each and the third plant would generate two megawatts. "We're now working on the layout and foundation of our first power plant, which will require a 100-million-baht budget from this financial year", he said. The company will then spend 222 million baht to complete the first phase and start the second plant next year. The third power plant will be developed in 2008 with the investment of 308 million baht.

The three power plants will use biogas produced from the effluents from palm oil processing (POME). The electricity generated from the three plants will feed the company and the rest will be sold to Thailand's Electricity Generating Authority at around three baht (6 eurocents/8.5 dollarcents) per KWh, that is, very competitively:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The utilisation of waste for energy will make the energy balance of palm oil biofuels even more positive.

Mr Clendon adds that "the incentives for VSPP investments are very attractive. Moreover, we had researched the potential of this kind of projects for a few years, so we could move quickly when the government announced this scheme".

He noted that the company was also interested in developing another power plant using biomass, which would be fuelled by oil-palm leftovers in 2009.

For the palm-oil production, Univanich plans this year to export 100,000 tonnes of crude palm oil, or 30% of total output, to Europe and Asia, particularly India.

"When we export palm oil, we're worried about the stronger baht but its impact will be very minimal as selling prices in the global market have been rising for two months and will continue to increase until next year," Mr Clendon said.


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