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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, June 13, 2006

Indonesia claims it can become world's largest ethanol producer

Here at the BioPact, we monitor scientific studies which assess the bioenergy and biofuels production potential in countries all over the world. These projections are extremely complex as there are many factors and uncertainties at play: demographic trends, economic development, advances in biotech, land availability and degradation, climate change effects, and so on.
Once in a while, though, we allow individual countries (and their politicians, marketeers and industry execs) to express their enthusiasm and make (exaggerated) claims about their biofuels and bioenergy potential. Today, we present Indonesia, which claims it "has the potential to become the world's biggest ethanol producer".

Indonesia has potential to become the biggest ethanol producer in the world because it has an abundance of raw material and vast lands for producing the commodity, an industry executive said.
"The country's potential as ethyl alcohol producer is very big but its recent production is still below Brazil's, China's or India's," Agus Purnomo, chairman of the National Methylated Spirit and Ethy Alcohol Association (Asendo) said here on Monday,
Speaking after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between agroindustry and PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia (RNI) Group, the Situbondo administration and boarding school Salafiyah Syafiiyah on
the use and processing jatropha oil, he said Indonesia produces 170 million liters of ethyl alcohol per year.
Sugar mills under the company in Yogyakarta and Cirebon alone produce 15 million liters per year.
With its availability of huge raw materials and vast lands, he said, Indonesia could produce the commodity.
"Moreover, the country can use or sell to foreign markets," Agus who also president director of PT PG Rajawali I, said.
He also said his association had met some economic ministers to discuss the matter and waited for the government's political will for making a regulation on its trade.
Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol, is a flammable, colorless chemical compound, one of the alcohols that is most often found in alcoholic beverages. In common parlance, it is often referred to simply as alcohol.
The largest single use of ethanol is as a motor fuel and fuel additive. The largest national fuel ethanol industries exist in Brazil and the United States. The Brazilian ethanol industry is based on sugarcane; as of 2004, Brazil produces 14 billion liters annually,
enough to replace about 40% of its gasoline demand. Most new cars sold in Brazil are flexible-fuel vehicles that can run on ethanol, gasoline, or any blend of the two.
Indonesia is a net importer of sugar. In 2004, it produced more 2 million tons of sugar while its domesctic demand reached 3.4 million tons annually.
Gasohol is the nickname of ethanol which is most commonly blended with gasoline.
Thailand, India, China and Japan have now launched their national gasohol policies. Thailand started blending 10% ethanol for its ULG95 in 1985; now there are more than 4000 stations serving E10. The blending of 10% ethanol into gasoline will be mandated by the end of
2006 with the import ban on MTBE.
It is expected that once the production of ethanol from cassava and sugar cane- molasses can be ramped up, a higher blending ratio like E20 or E85 or even Flexible Fuel Vehicle will be introduced to Thailand.


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EU Commission approves record allocation for energy projects in developing world

The European Commission has approved €220 million for the ACP-EU Energy Facility. This will allow the Commission to co-finance selected (biofuels and bioenergy) projects contributing to the provision of adequate, affordable and sustainable energy services in the African, Caribbean and Pacific Island countries. The €220 million is the most important single allocation ever granted by the EU for energy projects in the ACP countries. It follows the launch of the EU Energy Initiative for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Energy (EUEI) at the World Summit of Sustainable Development (2002), toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, in particular the goal of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1 a day) by 2015.

The underlying principle of the Energy Facility is to provide grants to projects enhancing the access of the poor to energy services. As such it provides the missing link for the financing of sustainable activities and programmes in the energy sector. Its innovative approach lies in encouraging much needed collaboration between public and private sectors. Energy Facility funding is open to ACP state actors, ACP and EU non-state actors, civil society, private sector and international organisations. The Call for Proposals will be launched on the 19th of June 2006.

Projects financed by the ACP-EU Energy Facility will

* help improve access to modern energy services by poor rural people, in villages, rural towns, peri-urban areas and remote islands;
* support good governance and better management in the energy sector by strengthening poverty related actions;
* Facilitate future large-scale investment programmes in infrastructure and distribution in rural areas.

The Energy Facility also contributes to the new Partnership on Infrastructure which is being developed between the African Union and the EU, as well as providing technical assistance and institutional support to NEPAD and financing selected priority regional network activities and programmes.

The ACP-EC Energy Facility puts into practice the EU's commitment to help the poorest communities in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions. It will provide a substantial contribution to basic services that are essential to a decent livelihood, such as cooking, lighting, cooling, heating, pumping and telecommunications.

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The broader view: biorefineries and biomaterials

Everything seems to be falling in line. Long ago, we wrote about the concept of integrated biorefineries, which will not only produce liquid biofuels, bioenergy products and biomaterials that ought to replace all petro-chemical rivals (from plastics to fertilizers), - but at the time it was a rather speculative and introductory text. Today, several sectors are colliding and finding themselves in the concept. Take nanotech: new avenues have recently been opened up by cellulose-based nanofibres, promising the establishment of an entirely new market for wood and raw biomass (which we at the BioPact want to be produced and exported by the developing world). So the biorefinery of the future has yet another product range to look at.

Cellulose under the microscope - high-tech molecularly
engineered materials can now be made from wood

Wood fibres turn up in a wide range of products. In addition to traditional paper and wood-based materials, they are also used for example in the food, textile and pharmaceutical industries. The scope of application of wood fibre could, however, be vastly broader than it is at present. With this objective in sight, new avenues are being opened up by cellulose-based nanofibres, which can be used to produce extremely strong and modifiable materials. These efforts are backed by growing pressures such as environmental requirements which lend ever stronger support to the demand for wider utilisation of new natural, fibre-based materials in future.

"Forest cluster companies operating in Finland are on the look out for new forest products. In order to be able to meet the challenges of these companies we need to improve the current level of know-how in wood-based products and wood processing at molecular level. New territory has been charted for example in the areas of composite and nanomaterials," says Professor Janne Laine of the Helsinki University of Technology's Department of Forest Products Technology.

Interest in cellulose-based nanofibres is primarily driven by its environmental value as a biomaterial. It is also known that nanomaterials can be used, for example, to achieve strength properties which are not attainable with particles of bigger size classes. Furthermore, the smaller the particle is, the bigger the surface area, which in turn increases the desired interactivity with other materials.

"One of the main application targets for new materials is the car industry, which wants to use lightweight cellulose fibres in car interior panelling. Estimates in terms of volume of the natural fibre requirement of the European car industry in 2010 are extremely substantial," says Laine.

Professor Laine's research team is one of five teams involved in examining and developing cellulose-based nanofibres as part of the Finnish-Swedish Wood Material Science and Engineering research programme.

According to Professor Janne Laine, the Nanostructured Cellulose Products research project has shown that wood fibre can be used to make an extremely versatile range of materials, both for traditional wood processing industry products as well as for totally new applications.

Cellulose fibres (30 micrometers wide, 2–3 millimetres long) consist of nanometre-scale microfibrils (4 nm wide, 100–200 nm long).

The chief objective of the project has been to produce uniform quality nanofibre (microfibrillated cellulose, MFC) from cellulose fibres by combining enzymatic or chemical treatment with mechanical processing. The second objective has been to attempt to functionalise the surfaces of the microfibrils, e.g. by means of polymers in order to be able to utilise the converted fibrils in as many materials as possible. The third objective has been to demonstrate how cellulose fibrils can give totally new properties to a range of different materials.

The project has achieved an 80 percent reduction in the energy requirement of microfibrillar cellulose manufacture as compared to levels formerly claimed in literature. In addition, enzymatic pre-treatment combined with specific mechanical treatments has produced microfibrils of extremely high and uniform quality.

"We've succeeded in modifying the surfaces of microfibrils e.g. by means of different polymers, which has, for instance, enabled us to make their surfaces more electrically charged. Microfibrils give considerable toughness and strength to traditional paper products even in small quantities. Correspondingly, microfibrils, as so-called nanocomposite structures, form an extremely high-strength material (e.g. film) the plasticity (elasticity) of which is possible to regulate for example by means of starch," says Laine.

"Cellulose microfibrils can also be used to make ultra-light materials. By combining fibrils with conductive polymers, we've been able to make cellulose based structures which conduct electricity. It's also been possible to coat microfibrils with a thin layer of titanium dioxide, which makes the material photocatalytically active. Titanium dioxide coated microfibrillar cellulose could be used, for instance, in solar cells and applications in which self-cleaning surfaces are needed, such as filters."


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Oil boilers out, biomass boilers in: Norway's $3.2 billion bioenergy fund

Norway is one of those countries of which you spontaneously say "wow": a great social system, a very high living standard, lots of oil & gas resources, and a bright green outlook on the future. It is also the country that forced its citizens to put part of their oil & gas wealth into a "future fund", that will be used to ensure that coming generations can enjoy an equally happy life-style as their parents.

Today, in these times of global energy worries, the fund comes in handy. Norway has just announced that it will invest a whopping $3.2 billion in bioenergy, biofuels and other renewable energy forms. Not bad for a major oil exporting country.

Norway is setting up a 20 billion Norwegian crowns ($3.24 billion) fund to promote renewable energy such as wind and hydropower while spurring energy savings, the government said on Monday.

It said the cash would help Norway achieve a goal of raising available power by 30 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2016, compared with 2001, from renewable energy sources and by greater efficiency. Its previous goal was a saving of 12 TWh by 2010 versus 2001.

Norway's total power output, mostly from hydropower, is about 120 TWh a year.

"Bioenergy, windpower, hydropower, and energy efficiency will contribute to new possibilities, new jobs and new optimism over the whole country," Oil and Energy Minister Odd Roger Enoksen said in a statement.

The fund would be managed by state energy firm Enova.

Under the scheme, Enova would strengthen infrastructure for district heating, stimulate energy efficiency and renewable energy in households and set up a deposit scheme to encourage scrapping of oil boilers.

Norway needs to promote renewable energy use partly because its emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, mainly from burning oil, were far above target and about 9 percent above 1990 levels in 2005.

Under the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol on curbing global warming, Norway has to limit any rise in emissions to no more than one percent by 2008-2012 compared to 1990 levels.

That goal is hard to reach because fossil fuel use is rising in Norway, the number three oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. Norway generates almost all its energy from hydropower and has few rivers left to dam.

Under the new scheme, about 10 billion crowns would be put into the fund from January 2007 through the government's annual budget, and another 10 billion from January 2009.


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EU nations want flexibility on biofuels and bioenergy

The European Energy Top has recently concluded. Amongst the major policy suggestions are the ideas of (1) leaving EU member states free to determine their own policy approach and to choose the sectors in which biomass and energy crops are used, whether in heating, cooling, transport biofuels or electricity generation, and (2) that the EU's biomass initiatives should focus on R&D (second generation biofuels and biorefineries) and on ensuring markets at EU and global level function smoothly, the ministers said at a meeting of the energy Council on 8 June.

They added that R&D efforts at EU level should focus in particular on "second-generation biofuels, biorefineries, efficient boiler technologies, the impact of biomass fuel emissions on air pollution and market introduction aspects." Another priority is to increase the use of biomass, including waste "in particular for cogeneration and district heating".

The long awaited Council Conclusions on Biomass [*.pdf] and the strategic vision text "Biofuels in the EU - A vision for 2030 and beyond" [*.pdf] are now online.

Among other things, they invited the Commission to:

* review waste legislation to "further encourage the use of biomass and clean waste as fuel";
* "review the animal by-products legislation with a view to encouraging the use of farming and food processing by-products as a renewable energy source"
In a related development, the European Commission on 8 June launched a Biofuels Technology Platform to coordinate biofuels and biomass research and development policy. Led by industry, the platform is expected to produce a European strategy for producing biofuels that are compatible with present-day infrastructures, in particular for transport applications. A "vision paper for 2030 and beyond" was presented at the conference which will form the basis of the forthcoming strategy.

Also see the Commission's (DG Research) "Launching Conference of the European Technology Platform for Biofuels" [*.pdf](8 June 2006).


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