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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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Friday, December 22, 2006

Schmack starts feeding purified biogas into the natural gas grid

Today sees the start of operations at the Pliening biogas plant, one of the largest of its kind in Germany. Following the official approval by inspectors, the facility located near Munich will start feeding refined biogas into the German natural gas grid [*German] on an industrial scale. The project was realised jointly by Schmack Biogas AG, the world's leading biogas plant designer, and planning firm Renewable Energy Systems. Financing has been provided by the Aufwind Schmack Gruppe. E.ON Bayern will be the offtaker of the gas. The €9.8 (US$12.9) million investment marks the completion of the first reference project for feeding biogas into the German grid.

Ulrich Schmack, member of the Managing Board of Schmack Biogas AG, earlier provoked controversy in Germany when he said that locally produced biogas could substitute all Russian natural gas imports by 2030. He said so as a high representative for renewable energies to the German government (earlier post).

On the unique Pliening project, Schmack comments: 'Particularly where large biogas plants are concerned, the future lies in feeding gas into the grid, thereby substituting expensive natural gas imports. This is also reflected in the strong interest in such plants shown by major energy providers and local utilities. We produce biogas from locally available resources and convert it into electrical energy and heat where this can be done most efficiently, particularly through effective recovery of waste heat, which results in optimum energy utilisation.'

Europe's developments on the biogas front go further than using it as a source for the generation of electricity and heat. More and more countries are starting to use the green gas as an automotive fuel (compressed biogas, CBG, used like CNG). The capacity to feed biogas into the grid takes this future sustainable and green mobility paradigm a step further (earlier post, see also Sweden's ambitious biogas project).

The Pliening project's great strategic importance derives from the fact that it represents the first-ever industrial facility capable of refining biogas to natural gas standards within economic parameters. In contrast to normal biogas, which usually has a methane content between 40 and 60 percent, the purified and refined biogas has a methane content of 96 percent, thereby meeting natural gas standards:
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The purification and refining technology is provided by CarboTech Engineering GmbH. Recently acquired by Schmack, this Essen-based company has developed a proprietary gas purification and refining process which is considered to be the industry-leading technology.

Feeding biogas into the natural gas grid - the potential
According to estimates by the Fachverband Biogas e.V. industry association, biogas could substitute as much as 20% of Germany's natural gas consumption. In 2006, the association declared: 'The purification of biogas to natural gas standards and its distribution in the form of biomethane through the existing grid will be key processes driving the biogas technology'. Feeding biogas into the grid allows its full potential to be realised - both in terms of efficiency and local availability. In both regards, biogas enjoys clear advantages over most other renewable energies.

The amendment of the German Energy Industry Act opens the natural gas grids to third-party feeders, which could potentially usher in a development similar to the one seen in the electricity market following the opening of the power grids mandated by the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). Biogas networks are already in place in Scandinavia and in Switzerland. Austria's first pilot plant for feeding biogas into the grid was started up in 2005; this facility was built by Schmack which remains in charge of the technological management.

The Biogas plant in Pliening near Munich produces some 3.9 million cubic metres (137.7 million cf) of biomethane per year, which is equivalent to the annual natural gas consumption of 1,300 4-person households.

Schmack Biogas has so far installed some 160 plants of different sizes with a nominal electrical output of roughly 36 MW. The company's activities focus on the German market. Apart from Germany, Schmack Biogas is currently also interested in the Italian, Dutch and US markets. Schmack Biogas AG has been listed in Deutsche Börse's Official Market / Prime Standard since May 24, 2006.


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