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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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Sunday, December 24, 2006

US firm to produce ethanol in Tanzania

Tanzania's president Jakaya Kikwete's recent visit to the US is beginning to pay off. During his trip, Kikwete stressed that his country has a large potential for the production of biofuels, both for the domestic market as well as for exports. He added that Tanzania is currently facing a fuel crisis, and that high oil prices are a burden on the developing country's economy.

A quick look at some facts about Tanzania's potential:
  • a potential arable land base of 67.2 million hectares of arable land, of which 5.2% is currently used (see the FAO's Terrastat database)
  • very high land suitability for starch crops (mainly maize, cassava) and a relatively high suitability for sugar cane (see the FAO's land suitability maps for rainfed cropping)
  • low land prices, estimated to be below US$ 100 per hectare (earlier post)
  • a large rural population in desperate need of jobs and additional incomes; some 80% of Tanzania's labor force makes a living off the land
Of course, many challenges remain, ranging from infrastructural and market access barriers to a problematic investment climate.

Nonetheless, in principle Tanzania could become a biofuels superpower and begin to leapfrog into a post-petroleum era (earlier post). US company Renew Energy listened to the president, was clearly interested in his country's biofuels potential, and has meanwhile arrived in Dar Es Salaam to carry out a feasibility study that will probably lead to actual production of ethanol within two years.

The firm specialises in the production of ethanol fuel made from sugarcane, according to Mr Robert Welch, chief consultant. He said that if the deal materialises, his company would need to acquire at least 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of land to grow sugarcane, the raw materials for production of the biofuel. Most likely, the province of Morogoro (see map) will be chosen. "If things work out as planned, we will establish the industry in one or two years' time," he added.

He said the fuel produced will be used for local consumption with the excess to be exported to US where demand is big and growing:
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Mr Welch said their focus was to have the sugarcane plantation in the Morogoro region while looking for other regions to start the farms. Mr Welch described biofuel which is usually used by vehicles and running of machines, as a cheaper product compared to petrol, saying its local price will be 30 per cent less than that of petrol and that he was expecting to meet 10 per cent of the country's demand for petrol. Currently the price of petrol ranges between 1,290/- and 1,300/- per litre. He said that the biofuel can be mixed with petrol in a ratio of 25 per cent of biofuel to 75 per cent of petrol. (Note: ethanol's energy content is some 30% below that of gasoline, which has to be taken into account when talking about price differences).

Currently the country's demand for petrol is about 1.5 billion liters, meaning that the Tanzania could make up to 10% savings on its fuel import bill.

Apart from biofuel production, Mr Welch said that his company would be using a sugarcane byproduct (bagasse) for the productio of electricity.

The Deputy Minister for Industry, Trade and Marketing, Mr David Mathayo, confirmed that the Renew Energy Company had indicated interests to invest in the ethanol production and that the investor has already met the Minister for Energy and Minerals Mr Nazir Karamagi and the Director of Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC), Mr Emmanuel Ole Naiko. If the project takes off, it is expected to ease Tanzania's fuel crisis as well as stimulate business and economic growth through direct and indirect employment.


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