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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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Saturday, December 16, 2006

US airforce successfully tests synthetic (bio)fuel in B52 aircraft

We have been tracking developments in aviation biofuels for quite a while (earlier post and references there). The creation of renewable fuels for large aircraft that fly at high altitudes is the last frontier, with many challenges remaining. But today, the US airforce announced that it has come a step closer to making renewable aviation fuels a reality: a B-52 Stratofortress took off on december the 15th on a flight-test mission using a blend of synthetic fuel and JP-8 (kerosene) in all eight turbine engines. This is the first time a B-52 has flown using a synfuel blend as the only fuel on board.

Synthetic fuels are obtained from gasifying a renewable (biomass) or non-renewable (coal, natural gas) primary energy source to obtain a carbon and hydrogen rich gas. This gas is then liquefied by Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, a process which results in clean 'synthetic fuels' (click diagram). If such synfuels are based on fossil fuels ('coal-to-liquids' or 'gas-to-liquids') without the carbon that gets released during the gasification being captured and sequestered, then they contribute substantially to climate change. If the synfuels on the contrary are based on renewable biomass ('biomass-to-liquids'), they offer a very clean kind of carbon-neutral fuel.

The gas-to-liquids process as it has been developed by Syntroleum, a Fischer-Tropsch technology leader whose fuel was used in a previous airforce test, is indifferent to the type of syngas used. This means syngas derived from biomass remains a very promising resource for the production of ultra-clean synfuels.

Syntroleum’s synthetic jet fuel has shown superior performance characteristics compared to traditional aviation fuels. Prior testing by the military on the company’s FT fuels have shown a reduction in particulate matter and soot emissions of greater than 90% depending upon the turbine engine type compared to aviation fuels produced by refining crude oil. The reduced particulate matter and soot emissions significantly improve engine efficiency, performance and overall air quality.

Commenting on yesterday's test, Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne, said:
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"The B-52 test flights at Edwards Air Force Base are the initial steps in the Air Force process to test and certify a synthetic blend of fuel for its aviation fleet. We are confident that the success of this flight will bring us one step closer to allowing a domestic source of synthetic fuel to accomplish the Air Force mission in the future."

The flight further demonstrates the Air Force's commitment to using alternate fuels and is the next step in the testing and certification process before the fuel can go into widespread use, officials said. According to William Anderson, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, the Air Force has reinvigorated its energy strategy which is underpinned by supply-side availability and semand-side conservation. "The Air Force is moving forward in its commitment to certify alternative sources of fuel for both its aircraft and ground vehicles fleet," said Mr. Anderson.

Maj. Gen. Curtis Bedke, Air Force Flight Test commander, is flying the aircraft to assess how well the aircraft performs using the synthetic blend of fuel. The next test phase for the B-52 will be cold-weather testing to determine how well the synfuel-blend performs in extreme weather conditions.

Earlier, the Argentinian airforce successfully tested a 'bio-jetfuel' consisting of 80% kerosene and 20% of a special type of biodiesel, in a C-130 Hercules cargo carrier (earlier post).

The news is important because it means biomass can now be used in all transport sectors, including aviation, which can not be serviced by any other renewable energy source. This major advantage will no doubt promote the global biomass industry.


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