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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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Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Global Benefits of Biofuels - a quick overview

Here at the BioPact we want to expand the discussion about biofuels and take it a step further by looking at the socio-economic and 'geopolitical' effects that the increasing production of ethanol, biodiesel, biogas and biomass will have in the long run. As we have written before, bioenergy offers an opportunity to lift millions of the world's poorest out of poverty. More and more people are beginning to follow our simple proposition of a global, green energy exchange relationship, counting in factors such as social justice, greater access to energy for the poor and a shift from a petro-militarist world towards one where bioenergy dominates.

Last week, the German Agency for Technical Cooperation's report (written for the Worldwatch Institute) was presented [see earlier post], and it looks at exactly the issues we're addressing here at the BioPact.

The Globalist read the report too, and made an interesting Q & A on the global potential biofuels have for economic and social development in the "third" world. Obviously they are a bit overly optimistic and not very critical, but enjoy their enthusiasm, and then think with us about the more problematic issues surrounding global biofuels exchanges (why not join our forum?)

Q: What impacts can biofuel have on the developing world?

A: Of the world's 47 poorest countries — 38 are net oil importers and 25 of these import all of their oil. Yet many of these countries have substantial agricultural bases and are well-positioned to grow highly productive energy crops.

Energy crops have the potential to reduce GHG emissions by more than 100%

Q: How efficient is biofuel production and how can it influence unemployment?

A: The World Bank reports that biofuel industries require about 100 times more workers per unit of energy produced than the fossil fuel industry. The ethanol industry is credited with providing more than 200,000 jobs in the United States and half a million direct jobs in Brazil.

Q: How much does current fossil fuel use contribute to greenhouse gasses?

A: Transportation, including emissions from the production of transport fuels, is responsible for about one-quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and that share is rising.

Q: What impact can the use of biofuels have on greenhouse gas emissions?

A: Energy crops have the potential to reduce GHG emissions by more than 100% (relative to petroleum fuels) because such crops can also sequester carbon in the soil as they grow.

Q: Just how much reduction are we talking about?

A: Estimated GHG reductions for biofuel feedstock include a 70-110% reduction for fibers such as switchgrass and poplar, 65-100% wastes like waste oil, harvest residues and sewage, 40-90% for sugars such as sugar cane and sugar beet, 45-75% for vegetable oils including rapeseed, sunflower seed and soybeans — and 15-40% for starches such as corn and wheat.

Q: What are the future implications of biomass energy?

A: In the future, the type of processing energy used will be more relevant. A biofuel plant that uses biomass energy will contribute far more to reducing GHG emissions than one using coal energy.

Of the world's 47 poorest countries — 38 are net oil importers and 25 of these import all of their oil.

Q: How much has Brazil invested in the production of biofuels?

A: Between 1975 and 1987, ethanol saved Brazil $10.4 billion in foreign exchange while costing the government $9 billion in subsidies.

Q: But, has this investment paid off?

A: Even with subsidies, the economic savings with biofuels from avoided oil imports can be considerable and this investment paid off even more in subsequent years. Studies show that from 1976-2004, Brazil's ethanol production substituted for oil imports worth $60.7 billion — or as much as $121.3 billion including the avoided interest that would have been paid on foreign debt (based on debt previously incurred importing oil).

Q: How can increased biofuel production benefit farmers?

A: In Brazil, the government hopes to build on the success of the Proálcool ethanol program by expanding the production of biodiesel. All diesel fuel must contain 2% biodiesel by 2008 and 5% by 2013. The government hopes to ensure that poor farmers in the north and northeast receive a fair share of the economic benefits of biodiesel production.

Q: Are other South American countries expanding the use of ethanol?

A: As of early 2006, Columbia mandates that all gasoline sold in cities with populations exceeding 500,000 contain 10% ethanol. In Venezuela, the state oil company is supporting the construction of 15 sugar cane distilleries over the next five years as the government phases in a national E10 (10% ethanol) blending mandate.

Q: How has Brazil influenced ethanol production in the region?

A: In Bolivia, 15 distilleries are being constructed, and the government is considering authorizing blends of E25. Costa Rica and Guatemala are also in the trial stages for expanding production of sugar cane fuel ethanol. Many of these countries have learned from the experience of Brazil — the world leader in fuel ethanol.

Between 1975 and 1987, ethanol saved Brazil $10.4 billion.

Q: How much ethanol does China intend to use for transportation fuel?

A: In China, the government is making E10 blends mandatory in five provinces that account for 16% of the nation's passenger cars.

Q: What about in Southeast Asia?

A: In Southeast Asia, Thailand, eager to reduce the cost of oil imports while supporting domestic sugar and cassava growers, has mandated an ambitious 10 % ethanol mix in gasoline starting in 2007.

Q: And elsewhere in the region?

A: For similar reasons, the Philippines will soon mandate 2% biodiesel to support coconut growers and 5% ethanol — likely beginning in 2007. In Malaysia and Indonesia the palm oil industry plans to supply an increasing portion of national diesel fuel requirements.

Q: Where does India fit into the mix?

A: In India, a rejuvenated sugar ethanol program calls for E5 blends throughout most of the country. The government plans soon — depending on ethanol availability — to raise this requirement to E10 and then E20.

Transportation is resonsible for about one-quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: What African nations have the capacity to meet the growing ethanol demand?

A: In Africa, efforts to expand biofuels production and use are being initiated or are under way in numerous countries, including Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The Globalist.

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Producing ethanol from agricultural waste a step closer

Research conducted by Delft University of Technology has brought the efficient production of ethanol from (woody) biomass a great deal closer to fruition. The work [*.pdf] of researcher Marko Kuyper was an important factor in this. His research in recent years has greatly improved the conversion of certain sugars from agricultural waste to bio-ethanol, using genetically modified yeast strains. Kuyper introduced a gene that is found in a fungus that thrives in elephant dung, into the baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that is used to ferment sugars.

The vision of integrated biorefineries, where the entire biomass stream (including lignocellulose) is used, comes another step closer.

The search for alternatives to the current, oil-based, fuels is the focus of great interest around the world. One of the most attractive alternatives is bio-ethanol - alcohol produced from agricultural crops. At present, bio-ethanol is only made from sugars derived from corncobs, sugar beets, grain and sugarcane, with the help of baker’s yeast. A great number of by-products result from the cultivation of these crops, such as straw and corn husks. It would be a major step forward if this leftover material, which also largely consists of sugar, could be used for the production of bio-ethanol. This would allow agricultural land to be used more efficiently and at the same time prevent competition with food supplies.

Until recently, the problem was that the complex mixture of sugars that makes up these leftover materials could not be efficiently converted into ethanol by the baker’s yeast. Delft University of Technology, however, has recently devised a solution for this, which is achieved by genetically modifying the baker’s yeast. The Delft researchers have inserted a gene (derived from a fungus that is found in elephant faeces) into baker’s yeast, allowing it to convert an important sugar type, xylose, into ethanol, thereby making the production of bio-ethanol from supplies of leftover materials possible.

During his recent PhD research, Marko Kuyper greatly improved this method: people can now start using agricultural waste products that contain sugar to produce bio-ethanol on an industrial scale. Delft University of Technology and the Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation are working together on this project with Royal Nedalco and BIRD Engineering. These parties expect to achieve large-scale industrial implementation within 5 years.

Delft University of Technology.

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All vehicles to use ethanol in Japan by 2030: report

All gasoline-powered vehicles in Japan will run on blend fuel that contains 10 percent of environment-friendly ethanol by 2030, Asahi Shimbun reported Tuesday, quoting environment ministry officials.

The ministry plans to introduce laws and regulations between 2008 to 2012 requiring all new vehicles to be compatible with a blend of 90-percent petrol and 10-percent bioethanol (E10), it said.

Here at the BioPact we're asking ourselves: where is Japan going to get the ethanol from? The country itself has very limited potential. But we know that it has been signing major deals with Brazil and has recently invested heavily in social programs surrounding that country's bioenergy program. Soon, it might begin to look beyond Brazil and on towards Africa.

Meanwhile, the ministry aims to have half of all fuel consumed by vehicles contain 3-percent bioethanol (E3). Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan promises to cut CO2 emission by 6 percent from the 1990 level between 2008 and 2012.

E10 fuel will be available on the Japanese market starting from 2020. By 2030, all vehicles in Japan should be using E10 fuel, according the plan.

By estimation, the overall shift to E10 gasoline will reduce Japan's carbon dioxide emission by about 10 million tons. The amount of bioethanol used by 2030 is equivalent to 2.2 million kiloliters of crude oil, it said.

New cars currently on sale in Japan can use E3 gasoline, though the fuel is not generally available on market.

People's Daily Online.

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Quicknotes on biofuels, from the lusophone world

Our portuguese speaking crew compiled the following overview of newsbits from the Lusophone world:

BRAZIL. Japan's International Cooperation Bank is to invest R$ 1.2 billion (€420 million)in Brazil's bioenergy program. In 2004 and last year, Japan already studied and signed deals to import ethanol and biodiesel from the country. The new investment focuses on three themes: (1) support for small independent farmers who will integrate food production and biofuels feedstock, (2) support for grassroot organisations and energy farmers who work within a framework of cooperatives and (3) technology transfers (on a higher governmental level). Especially the first two of those are of interest to the BioPact.
The Bank's CEO says that the program is part of Japan's new energy strategy for the coming decades, in which biomass plays a crucial role. Japan's own potential is limited, which is why it is looking at closing bilateral deals. June 1, Diário do Grande.

MOZAMBIQUE. Mozambique starting ambitious biodiesel and bioethanol programmes, based on abundantly available sugar and soy. In total more than US$ 200 million is being invested, involving several companies, amongst which "Mozambique Biofuel Industries", which obtained permission to use 500,000 hectares of land to produce feedstock. Mozambique's state-run oil company Petromoc has signed a cooperation agreement with South-Africa's Cofamosa to invest US$ 150 million in an ethanol plant in Moamba, which will use sugar cane. Nutasa, a portuguese group is building a similar plant in Maputo.
Meanwhile the Mozambican government is building its second (US$ 14 million) biodiesel plant near the capital Maputo, this one aimed at producing the green fuel for export to the European Union.
This biofuel fever will provide thousands of jobs to Mozambican sugar, jatropha, and soybean farmers. It will also reduce the country's depence on imported petroleum. Canal de Moçambique.

PORTUGAL. The Algarve's regional Energy & Environmental Agency has studied a new energy and mobility concept for the sparsely populated and dry province. It proposes to use sand-buggies for the public transport fleet which it wants to run on locally produced biodiesel (because importing diesel is expensive for lack of infrastructure), and on batteries that are charged by the wind turbines that take advantage of the province's very high wind potential. June 14, Jornal do Algarve.

BRAZIL. Embrapa - Brazil's agroindustrial giant - has patented a new, semi-portable thermal gasification technology which produces liquid biofuels much more competitively than transesterification and fermentation plants. The technology is aimed at groups who want to produce biodiesel, ethanol or biokerosene from biomass without the need for catalysts, in a decentralised way. It will be introduced to the market in the first semester of 2007. June 7, Valor Online.

BRAZIL. This year's Energy Summit in Brazil, which will be held in july, will focus amongst other things on biomass and bioenergy production infrastructure, and on technology transfer programs aimed at spreading the knowledge about tropical biofuel crops and processing to other Latin American countries. June 12, Portal National de Seguros.

BRAZIL. Researchers defend controversial eucalyptus plantations that produce fibre, fuel, charcoal, paper pulp and methanol. Scientists reject several of the environmentalist critiques about (fast growing) eucalyptus monocultures. When planted on Brazil's many sloped lands, integrated on a local level with lower-lying fields (in valleys), they can solve the problem of soil erosion and nutrient loss. Biomass growing on slopes often gets logged by local people in search of fuelwood. The result is that rainwater can freely run down the slopes and causes mudslides, nutrient loss and water logging in the lower lying fields. Moreover, eucalyptus trees protect soils because they aren't harvested annually, as is the case with other crops.
The critique about eucalyptus depleting water resrouces is unfounded, adds the Agency for Agroforestry Research, because in comparison with many wild biomass stands, it consumes considerably less. Moreover, monocultures allow for planned and more efficient management of the water resource, which may benefit local communities.
Finally, in comparison with ordinary agriculture, the silviculture of eucalyptus requires much less fertilizer, meaning it pollutes the hydrological system much less. May 22, more discussion about this controversial crop at Celulose Online. Informações e negócios no mundo da celulose.

PORTUGAL. After the recent news that Portugal is building the world's largest solar power plant, its minister of Economy and Innovation has announced that the renewable energy sector will be getting another boost because of investments in biofuels production and biomass power plants. This makes the green energy sector Portugal's fastest growing economic sector (qua investments). Of those, around €120 million goes liquid biofuel production and, over the coming years, €450 million to biomass power plants. Jornal de Negócios.

BRAZIL. Babassu shells can produce 260 MW of biomass energy for poor forest communities. Babaçu is a palm tree native to Brazil, widely grown there and provides an important industrial and economical resource because of the oil extracted from the kernels. The oil is similar to coconut oil and is gradually conquering that market. Since the trees are not grown in plantations, but are used as they stand in the wild (in the Amazon), its nuts are harvested manually by some of Brazil's poorest communities. They are often left with huge waste-streams of shells after they have removed the oil-rich kernels (which is done manually as well). Unicamp's Faculty of Mechanical Engineering studied the potential for using this waste in efficient co-generation plants, and sees a great opportunity in it for rural electrification. Each year, some 2.9 million tons of babassu shell are wasted. Kaxi, Agência de noticias da Amazônia.

[Entry ends here.]

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