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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

Malaysian company to produce ethanol from Nypa fruticans

Several years ago, we started studying the use of a mysterious mangrove palm, called Nypa fruticans, for the production of ethanol. Meanwhile, we have been cooperating with a Nigerian NGO, located in the volatile Niger Delta, where the palm thrives and is seen as an invasive species. The goal of the project is to find ways to build a locally rooted ethanol industry around the crop, involving delta-communities who live in dire poverty. Earlier, we reported on the mysterious crop in an introductory article.

Nypa fruticans, also known as nipah, attap chee or the mangrove palm, is classified as an 'underutilized' crop, relatively unknown and lacking research, even though it has been used for ages in the tropics by mangrove communities. These communities tap the palm in a skillful manner to extract vast quantities of sugar-rich sap, that is used to make wine and vinegar. The leaves, fruits, stems and fibres of the palm are used for a variety of other purposes.

Very-high yields
The secret of nipah is its incredibly high sugar-rich sap yield, as it has been observed by several researchers. Fermented into ethanol, the palm's large amount of sap allows for the production of 15,000 to 20,000 liters of the biofuel per hectare (compare with sugarcane at 5000-8000 liters, or corn, at 2000 liters). And it does so on a continuous basis, year round, for up to 50 years. Typical for an underutilised crop from the tropics, nipah research is scarce and there have been very few plant-breeding attempts.

In a for us very interesting announcement, we learn that a Kuala Lumpur-based company, in coordination with local authorities and the state government, is going to utilize nipah as a feedstock for commercial ethanol production in Perak, Malaysia. A world's first. Nipah has a much higher yield per hectare than corn, sugar beets or sugarcane, says Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali - local municipal chief.

"If we were able to produce ethanol from 110,000ha of nipah, it would be enough to satisfy the world’s [current ethanol] demand," he says:
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He added that a project to produce ethanol would mean additional jobs, with nipah tappers earning between 3,000 and 4,000 (€635-845/US$845-1125) each a month.

The state government, after studying a proposal from the company, agreed to allow it to extract "nira" or nipah sap from 10,000ha of palms along the state’s coastal area. Tajol Rosli said the state would also allocate 400ha of land in Perak Hilir district for a refinery.

"The company would be using home-grown technology to produce the ethanol after having discovered and patented a way to preserve the sap for up to three days instead of the usual six hours," he added.

He also said the company would begin construction of its refinery in April, which would be completed within a few years at a cost of between RM200 million and RM300 million (US$56-84 million).

We will be following these developments closely. Nipah grows in several developing countries where it has colonized thousands of hectares of mangroves and riverbeds. Exploiting this existing resource for ethanol production in a sustainable way may be a great strategy to provide extra income to mangrove communities, who often live in poverty.


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