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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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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

An overview of biofuels in the Pacific

Small island states are very dependent on imported petroleum. Most of these remote nations have energy intensive economies (often single sector economies, based on tourism), produce no oil themselves, have limited economic means with which to hedge against oil price fluctuations, which results in over-dependence and a state of permanent energy insecurity. Moreover, as we reported earlier, small island states are the first to experience the real impacts of climate change (in particular sea level changes). This is why, for example, Tuvalu, is pleading radically for a switch to carbon-neutral energy, itself setting the example by using all possible renewables, including bioenergy (earlier post).

For these island states, more perhaps than for other countries, locally produced biofuels offer an interesting alternative to costly and climate-destructive fossil fuels. No surprise then that some islands, like those in the Indian Ocean, are already cooperating in the sector (earlier post). In the Pacific too, the switch to biofuels is gathering pace.

The region as a whole has considerable potential to produce bioenergy -- between 20 and 174EJ per year by 2050 depending on the scenario --, with Papua New Guinea and Australia being the regional bioenergy powers, who could export their fuels to more remote islands (on this potential, see the studies carried out by the IEA's Bioenergy Task 40 study group). Earlier we referred to the main feedstock of interest in the region, the abundant and humble coconut, whose oil can be used as an excellent source for the production of first generation biodiesel and whose shells and fibres make for a biomass feedstock suitable for power generation.

Key experiences with the feedstock in Vanuatu, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji now indicate there is indeed a special case for the economic viability of biofuel in the Pacific, even though staying competitive in the world biofuel market will not be easy. An overview:
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Over the last 20 years, the price of coconut oil on the world market has consistently decreased, and after a period of relatively low diesel prices, the last five years have seen diesel prices progressively increase. Only recently, imported diesel in the Pacific has become more expensive than the net value of exported coconut oil, suddenly making coconut oil a serious commodity option for internal use as biofuel.

At the global level, ambitious targets set by countries to achieve a significant reduction in fossil fuel usage has caused an increase in world market prices for vegetable oil and sugar, as well as a tempering effect on crude oil prices. At the same time, environmental concerns that are driving the biofuel industry in the European Union are causing environmental problems through wide scale deforestation of palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia.

In the Pacific, the call for the use of locally produced biofuels has been based mainly on the desire to reduce dependency on imported fossil fuels. However, research conducted by the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) about the impact of biofuel on government finances, found that as coconut oil and sugar are important export products, using them to replace imports will also cause a decrease in total export revenue. In addition, if duties and excises are waived so as to promote the use of biofuels, the total impact on government finances might be negative.

In Fiji, the relatively small size of the sugar industry makes it difficult for Fiji to be competitive with ethanol on the world market.

However, the cost levels appear to be close to serving Fiji’s domestic market with a petrol substitute. The World Bank will investigate this further in 2007 in partnership with the Fiji Sugar Corporation. Although costs to produce biodiesel based on coconut oil are still quite high, another cheaper option is the use of waste vegetable oil as raw material, which can make it competitive with regular diesel.

Marshall Islands
In other Pacific countries, Tobolar copra mill in the Marshall Islands is retailing a 50/50 filtered coconut oil and diesel blend below the price of regular diesel.

Recently, a SOPAC inspection into a local car run for three years on various coconut oil blends, found no long-term engine deterioration and one can now even smell coconut fumes along the main road in Majuro.

In Vanuatu, there are two retailers refining coconut oil to either a mix with 20 percent kerosene or with 50 percent diesel. Despite the reduced prices supported by government, the uptake is still limited, but nonetheless growing.

The island's power utility UNELCO, has embarked on ‘industrialising’ the production of fuel-grade coconut oil and using it in its generators in a blend of 10 percent that is supporting the local industry and decreasing emissions.

In September, a similar blend was launched by Solomon Tropical Products in Honiara at the 2006 National Trade Show after testing their product in local vehicles.

In Samoa, SOPAC has assisted with the use of coconut oil as a fuel in power generation, with EPC, the power utility in Samoa.

Papua New Guinea
In PNG, many local suppliers of fuel have started to blend filtered coconut oil with diesel, including Unitech in Lae, which has been successfully trialling biofuel blends in engines as part of their mechanical engineering research.

Another supplier, PNG SD, is using mining proceeds to attempt to make power generation in remote communities commercially viable.

The potential
In the Pacific, assuming significant government support for major replanting and industry restructuring, SOPAC estimates the current regional potential in 2010 for biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) is about 30 percent of all transport fuels.

As there is no country in the world that has a biofuel industry without the backing of government policies and incentives, there is a very important role for national legislators in the region to ensure the adoption of standards and provide tangible support.

The Pacific biofuel advantage is in no small part due to our natural resources. A colonial heritage of dedicated coconut tree plantations gives the islands the edge to make biofuel a real economic and environmental alternative.

Although it will not be possible to replace all fossil fuels in the near future, biofuels provide part of the solution and should therefore be pursued vigorously by governments in partnership with the private sector. Biofuels will then decrease the island states' dependency on fossil fuels and build greater confidence in their own Pacific assets.


Anonymous said...

Source: http://www.islandsbusiness.com/islands_business/index_dynamic/containerNameToReplace=MiddleMiddle/focusModuleID=17152/overideSkinName=issueArticle-full.tpl

8:46 PM  

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