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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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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Malaysia working towards 'sustainable' expansion of palm oil plantations

Expansion of the palm oil industry — which many hope will provide the fuel of the future — must be sustainable, environmentally-friendly and protect local communities, Malaysia's deputy prime minister said in a speech at the launch of the International Biofuel and Alternative Energy Conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Since the 1990s, the area under palm oil cultivation globally has increased by 43 percent, mostly in Malaysia and Indonesia, the world's number 1 and 2 exporters of palm oil respectively. "Based on current trends, the oil palm industry is set to continue to grow to satisfy global demand," Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a speech prepared for him at the biofuel conference. "However, it is important that the expansion be sustainable."

Malaysia is projecting one million tonnes in biofuel production next year for exports, more than double the production of 400,000 tonnes this year. Speaking at the same event, Datuk Sabri Ahmad, chairman of the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA), says biofuel demand in Europe and the United States was expanding rapidly in line with the requirement for more environmentally friendly energy. Sabri says that by 2012, Europe would require 10 million tonnes of biodiesel compared to four million tonnes currently. He hopes Malaysia will become a main supplier.

The top five plantation companies in Malaysia would have the capacity to produce the projected one million tonnes of biofuel next year, he said at the media briefing. Sabri said this year, 72 companies were involved in biodiesel projects with a total investment of 7.01 billion ringgit (€1.47/1.97 billion), of which 4.87 billion ringgit came from local companies and the balance of 2.14 billion ringgit from foreign companies.

Increasing efficiency, towards 'sustainability'?
Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry's Parliamentary Secretary Senator Datuk Dr S. Vijayaratnam said in line with the robust demand for biofuel, Malaysia would step up efforts to increase production and efficiency yields in plantation crops, in order to make the sector more sustainable.

"We will not focus on increasing land hectarage but on increasing the yield or efficiency level by engaging in research and development, and utilising high quality seeds to produce better crop," he said. "We target an oil extraction rate of 25 percent and a production yield of 35 tonnes per hectare per year," he added. [Note: current extraction rates are around 20% on average for 19 tonnes of fruit bunches per year - see the 2005 data at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board.]

Vijayaratnam said there have been criticisms that Malaysian oil palm plantations were adversely affecting the habitat of the orang utan and environment, affecting Malaysia's reputation as one of the major palm oil producers to some degree, but these were not based on facts. To underscore the seriousness of its self-defined efforts towards more 'sustainability', Malaysia is taking several measures and lines of thought to embellish the image of the palm oil sector:

1. It launches a Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund with an anticipated outlay of 20 million ringgit (€4.2/US$5.6 million). It will fund ideas and proposals to enhance biodiversity linked to palm oil production worldwide:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

2. Increasing the use of palm biomass: biomass utilisation is gaining momentum in recent years largely due to global concerns over environmental pollution. The vast biomass resources available in the industry have not been fully exploited until now. “The Government would like the industry to tap all the available biomass and come up with value-added products that will enhance the industry's growth, competitiveness and sustainability,” Najib says.

3. Most of the oil palm plantations were and will be located on former rubber estates or plantations of other crops which switched to oil palm as it was more commercially profitable.

4. In the case of Indonesia, the oil palm plantations were located on land formerly used for logging, which means the land is used productively twice - so the argument goes.

It takes two to tango: EU/US imports surge
Sabri said palm oil exports to Europe and the US was growing steadily. The 10 percent growth in exports next year was achievable based on previous trends, he added.

According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council website, exports of palm oil to the European Union from January to October 2006 stood at 2,078,988 tonnes, up from 1,832,273 tonnes in the same period last year. Palm oil exports to the US from January to October 2006 amounted to 549,646 tonnes, an increase from 462,345 tonnes in the same period last year. The council's chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron said demand for palm oil in the US food industry was expected to go up, especially with the increasing consumer demand for food with less trans fatty acid.

Palm biofuels to dominate market
Because bio-fuels emit 80 percent less emissions than fossil fuels, "the future is becoming clear," Najib said in his speech. "As oil prices continue to soar and supplies become depleted, bio-fuels are looking more appealing as an alternative transport fuel."

The government introduced a National Biofuel Policy in 2005, aiming to reduce gasoline imports and to shore up palm oil prices during periods of low export demand. The diesel-palm oil blend has been used in recent years to power selected electricity generators in Malaysia. Palm-oil blended diesel is a technologically proven fuel for transport.

Officials announced last week that three Malaysian government-linked palm oil companies planned to merge to create the world's biggest palm oil business worth around 31.4 billion ringgit (
€6.5 billion/US$8.66 billion). Shareholders have yet to approve the proposal.

More information:
Bernama: M'sia Projects One Mln Tonnes In Biofuel Production In 2007 - December 5, 2006
International Herald Tribune / AP: Malaysia calls for sustainable expansion of palm oil plantations - Dec. 5, 2006
The Star: RM20mil Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund launched - Dec. 5, 2006


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