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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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Monday, December 04, 2006

E.ON Ruhrgas builds 150 motorway NG filling stations, adds 10% biogas

We have stressed many times that biogas makes for a very interesting transport fuel. In fact, according to a major European well-to-wheel study, biogas is the least polluting and most carbon-neutral of over 70 different fuels and fuel paths (earlier post). Moreover, biogas can also be produced on a massive scale, using dedicated energy crops. One German industry leader even thinks it can replace all natural gas imports from Russia by 2030 (earlier post). The German Biogas Association is equally optimistic about its longterm potential (earlier post).

Biogas can be produced from municipal, industrial or agricultural waste, but also from a range of dedicated crops such as grass species (like sorghum, sudan grass or hybrids) or specially bred 'super' biogas maize. This makes it interesting for the developing world. Production of the carbon-neutral gas can be integrated in next-generation biorefineries that yield green specialty chemicals (for such a pilot project, see here). The green gas can be mixed in existing natural gas infrastructures, with a country like India considering to do this on a large scale (earlier post).

As an automotive fuel, biogas is compressed and used in the same way as Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Some developing countries have already done great efforts to build a CNG infrastructure, with Pakistan getting over 1 million CNG-capable cars on the road in under two years time (earlier post). Compressed Biogas (CBG) could be added to this CNG with no major investments. In the West, Sweden leads the biogas-as-transport-fuel revolution.

Now E.ON Ruhrgas, a major German energy company that earlier committed to producing natural gas grade biogas, has announced that it will follow these examples: in the next two years it will set up about 150 filling stations on German motorways for natural gas vehicles (NGVs), and add 10% biogas to the fossil fuel. This means that there will soon be a nation-wide system of CNG/CBG filling stations in Germany. At present, natural gas as a motor fuel is available at roughly 750 filling stations throughout the country. The new measure will considerably improve the availability of this motor fuel.

For this purpose, E.ON Ruhrgas is establishing a new subsidiary known as E.ON Gas Mobil. It will build the new stations in proven cooperation with leading petroleum companies in Germany. In 2007, initially 60-70 new filling stations are to be set up. Another 60 to 70 stations are to follow in 2008. E.ON Ruhrgas is spending a total of up to €36million on this expansion of the system of NGV filling stations:
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"Natural gas has great potential as a motor fuel. It is not only considerably cheaper than petrol and diesel, but is also very favourable for the environment," said Dr. Bernhard Reutersberg, member of the E.ON Ruhrgas AG Board of Management and Chairman of the E.ON Gas Mobil Supervisory Board. "By establishing E.ON Gas Mobil we are sending a clear signal for the further development of this market. At the same time we continue to cooperate with German car makers offering attractive models."

The environmental advantages of natural gas as a motor fuel are to be enhanced further by the use of biogas. The latter is obtained and processed from renewable resources. In a voluntary commitment, the gas industry has pledged to add up to 10 % of biogas to the natural gas volumes provided for the motor fuel market up to 2010. It is thus making a significant contribution towards the reduction of CO2 emissions caused by road traffic. Biogas is suitable as a motor fuel for NGVs without any restrictions. In 2020, enough biogas could be available to fuel over four million NGVs in Germany.

Mr. Reutersberg stressed that the spending on the system of NGV filling stations would benefit almost entirely construction companies, architects and engineering firms in Germany. "With the present investments and the subsequent maintenance and repair activities, we are also making a positive contribution to the labour market."

These technological and infrastructural developments offer an interesting opportunity for the developing world as well, where biogas can be produced relatively easily. India is already looking into the idea of using biogas as a transport fuel (earlier post), and other countries will no doubt follow when projects in Europe prove to be a success.


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