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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 20, 2006

Biomass versus Nuclear, debate heating up

A Eurobarometer survey carried out in January of this year, indicated that EU citizens want more renewable energy and less nuclear. Only 12% of respondents in the 25 memberstates support atomic energy.
The debate about biomass and bioenergy versus nuclear is particularly acute in France, as the country has a long tradition and is the world leader in nuclear energy (80% of its electricity comes from atomic energy, and it also exports it accross Europe). For years, France and Germany have been cooperating on developing the world's most advanced type of reactor, the so-called European Pressurized water Reactor (EPR). A major lobbying-effort is underway on getting as many countries, including China and India, to adopt the new technology.

But French citizens feel too much money is spent on the EPR (€3 billion in France alone), money that could be spent on safer energy technologies that don't pose a waste problem. The bioenergy versus nuclear debate is often full of clichés and highly emotional, though.
That's why a comprehensive study by the anti-nuclear network "Sortir du nucléaire" (Getting out of Nuclear) must be welcomed. It analyses in a very concrete manner what a region like Basse-Normandie (where the first EPR will be built) would do with 3 billion €uros if it were to spend it on non-nuclear, green technologies. How would it spend such a massive budget? And how many jobs could be created with it?

The answer is surprising.

Obviously, the answer is devastating for the nuclear lobby. The study -- supported by 275 organisations from 47 countries, and presented to the public during a grand event in Cherbourg, which attracted 30,000 people -- suggests several posts to be included in the virtual budget, and the picture for better energy security and lots of jobs looks promising:

The green budget

1. 10% of the budget would go towards decentralisation of energy agencencies and management. France's centralistic tradition must be abandoned for a more dynamic approach. This decentralisation would bring in 400 jobs.

2. 33 % of it is spent on energy efficiency management, with campaigns, policies and distribution of small-scale technologies to change citizens' and industry's wasteful behavior. From giving incentives to citizens to switch to bio-airco in homes, to supporting low-energy housing construction and replacement of inefficient technologies in heavy industries, - the list of small, easily implementable measures is long. This should save the region 7TWh.

3. 22% of the €3bn would be spend on biomass and solar heating. Wood energy and solar water heating will save 4TWh and bring 4800 jobs.
The means: introducing and supporting modern pellet-boilers for households and SME's, creating a network for local biomass energy traders, creation of a credit scheme to support people buying solar heaters; and support for communal and collective purchases of these technologies in order to lower their cost.

4. 25% of the budget will go to producing renewable electricity - 11 TWh of it. Number of jobs created: 5500. The means:
-promoting biogas; the region has large agricultural waste-streams, especially from the dairy and poultry industry, that are not being used today as biofuel.
-use of biogas in co-generation plants that will produce electricity and heat at the same time. This type of "disctric heating" is highly efficient.
-the study shows there's enough left in the budget to finance 30% of these technologies in advance.
-encouraging micro-generation: classic heating systems in homes will be replaced with bio-stirling engines for the efficient production of heat and electricity (stirling co-generation).

-even though the region has a large wind energy potential, little effort to exploit it exist. This will be changed. The green budget has room for feasibility studies and to finance the first phases for the valorization of wind energy.

5. Finally, 10% of the massive budget will go to R&D into new, promising energy technologies; advanced photovoltaics, wave and tidal energy, (ethanol) fuel cells, and so on.

Results and conclusions

The study shows that with the same amount of money that would otherwise be spent on the European Pressurised water Reactor, two times more energy can be produced using renewables only, meeting the region's energy needs easily.
The number of jobs generated would be more than 10,000, which is many times more than would be generated by the EPR. The EPR would bring in 2300 jobs in the construction phase, and then trend downwards to 600 jobs, while counting a mere 250 to 300 permanent employees. By contrast, the 10,000 green jobs are fulltime, permanent, and stable jobs.

In short, this study gives us new perspective on the debate about green energy versus nuclear. Biomass, biofuels, and bioenergy are competitive with nuclear, generate far more jobs, and are much safer, no matter what the nuclear lobby says. Precisely because this study offers such a conrete and detailed case-study, it will be difficult for the nuclear lobby to circumvent it.

The study can be found here, at the website of Sortir de Nucléaire (English version here.)

For a quick introduction to the study, on which the above text was based: Biofrais.

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European Vintners to Sell Surplus Wine as Biofuel, Ethanol Feedstock

Believe it or not, but some of the exquisite Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Chardonnay and Chianti that is produced in Europe each year - and which many are keen to serve with exclusive meals only - might soon end up in European vehicles as ethanol.

Last year distillers in France and Italy already turned the season's surplus production from European vineyards into biofuel. This year, they're doing it again.

Up to 510 million liters of this year's surplus wine will be made into bioethanol that can only be used as biofuel or industrial alcohol, the European Commission announced. French winemakers have been given a quota of 150m hectoliters of table wine and 150m of quality wine, while Italians can sell 250m of quality and 10m liters of table wine for what the EU calls "crisis distillation."

Greek and Spanish winemakers have also asked the EU to buy their unwanted wine, and are awaiting a response.

The EU will pay around 130m euros for this year's surplus wine. Last year, more than 180m euros of EU cash went to pay for the distillation of wine for which buyers could not be found.

Turning quality wine into bioethanol may not be the cheapest way of producing biofuel, but it makes use of some of the excess wine that would otherwise go to waste.

Nevertheless, the EU aims to put an end to the practice by cutting the amount of surplus wine produced. Agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said: "Crisis distillation is becoming a depressingly regular feature of our common market organization for wine.

"While it offers temporary assistance to producers, it does not deal with the core of the problem - that Europe is producing too much wine for which there is no market. That is why a deep-rooted reform of the sector is needed urgently."

The EU strategy aimed at cutting waste in the viticulture industry will be unveiled when Mariann Fischer Boel presents her plans for reforming the sector on June 22.

The plans foresee introducing new production methods to bring down prices and make European wine more competitive on the global market.


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Biomass project wins British top award

Earlier we reported about France's renewed taste for wood energy (making it Europe's leaders), and Norway's massive €2.5 billion investment in woody biomass projects. We also focused on the huge biomass power plant in Les Awirs, Belgium, which used to be a coal-fired plant, but now runs entirely on solid biofuels imported from all over the world.
Wood energy is definitely becoming a major part of our bioenergy future (and we want the EU to import woody biomass from Central-Africa.)

In Britain too, attention is going to applications of wood biofuels. A pioneering environmental scheme in Yorkshire that has slashed carbon monoxide emissions by 40 per cent from council-run buildings has been recognised with a national British award. The local authority has the largest programme of biomass-fired community heating in the country, using waste wood for heating boilers in buildings used by its own workers and tenants in communal homes. Councillors introduced a policy two years ago that, where it was financially viable, biomass would be the preferred option for heating where new buildings were constructed or existing premises refurbished.

To date carbon dioxide emissions from heating have dropped by 40 per cent and it is expected the decline will continue, with a target reduction of 60 per cent by 2010.
That record was enough to secure Barnsley Council first prize in the national Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy, announced at a ceremony attended by Tory leader David Cameron, who has helped to push global warming up the political agenda and who has environmentally friendly energy-generating equipment in his own home.
The awards are recognised as the most important in the country in that field and the prize of £30,000 will be used to help establish a public centre to demonstrate and promote the use of renewable technology.
Historically, Barnsley's public buildings have been heated with coal but those boilers are being gradually replaced with others that burn wood instead.
Because wood creates oxygen as it grows, it is regarded as carbon dioxide neutral when it is burned.
A second advantage to using wood is that waste is burned in boilers that would otherwise end up dumped in landfill sites.
The decision by councillors to favour biomass fuel was made jointly because of fears that fossil fuels will eventually become ex-hausted and concerns for the environment.
A wood chip store, capable of holding 700 tonnes of the fuel, has been created as a central point to supply the increasing numbers of boilers throughout the town.
Those already working are operating at the authority's Smithies Lane depot, a community housing site in Sheffield Road and some schools, where boilers have been converted to run on wood rather than coal.
Biomass provides cheaper heating, so tenants who pay for communal services have seen their bills reduced.
A new business, called Silvapower, has been established to supply wood chips and uses waste from the forestry industry and sawmills.
A spokesman for the South Yorkshire Forest Partnership, Robin Ridley, said: "What the council has done will bring more woodland in South Yorkshire into active management. We're closing the loop, reaching a critical mass of boilers so the likes of Silvapower becomes a self-financing business."
The next development will be to use biomass at the council's new flagship office development in Westgate.
The boilers there will be used at night to generate power for the Town Hall and Central Library, which are both currently heated by electricity.
Judges praised Barnsley's "pioneering work in demonstrating that wood is a practical and cost-effective fuel for 21st century towns and cities".

Yorkshire Today.

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Europeans, Biofuels and Biotechnology: Patterns and Trends - Survey

Europeans are known as being the world's most critical consumers. Their cautious stance on genetically modified crops, their demand for top-quality and stylish products, their push towards organic and bio-products, their expenditure on "fair trade" goods, are all signs of this attitude.

Some blame them for being risk-averse or even conservative. But according to an EU survey on biotechnology published yesterday and entitled “Europeans and biotechnology in 2005: Patterns and Trends”, this is not exactly correct: European citizens are more optimistic about technology, more informed and more trusting of biotechnology than ever. The European public is not risk-averse about technological innovations that are seen to promise tangible benefits. The fact that they're well informed though, makes them also very critical. But criticism and optimism are not mutually exclusive.

Interestingly for us, industrial applications of biotechnology in biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, bio-plastics and biopharming for pharmaceuticals are widely supported in Europe, with over 70 per cent of respondents supporting incentives to develop biofuels and plastics. More people than not say they would pay more for a vehicle that runs on biofuels and pay more for bio-plastics. Around six in ten approve of biopharming providing that it is tightly regulated and across the EU those approving of biopharming outnumber those who disapprove in all but Austria.

While the majority are willing to delegate responsibility on new technologies to experts, making decisions on the basis on the scientific evidence, a substantial minority would like to see greater weight given to moral and ethical considerations in decision taking about science and technology and to the voices of the public.

The survey shows that there is widespread support for medical (red) and industrial (white) biotechnologies, but general opposition to agricultural (green) biotechnologies in all but a few countries. Europeans are interested in finding out about the risks and benefits associated with stem cell research, a utilitarian approach that informs their generally supportive view of this technology.

Industrial applications of biotechnology in biofuels, bio-plastics and biopharming for pharmaceuticals are widely supported in Europe, with over 70 per cent of respondents supporting incentives to develop biofuels and plastics. More people than not say they would pay more for a vehicle that runs on biofuels and pay more for bio-plastics. Around six in ten approve of biopharming providing that it is tightly regulated and across the EU those approving of biopharming outnumber those who disapprove in all but Austria.

The lesson for agri-food biotechnology is that unless new crops and products are seen to have consumer benefits, the public will continue to be sceptical. Looking across public perceptions of a range of technologies, resistance to GM food is the exception rather than the rule. There is no evidence that opposition to GM food is a manifestation of a wider disenchantment with science and technology in general.

The survey can be downloaded here:Europeans and biotechnology in 2005: Patterns and Trends [*.pdf]

European Business Guide.

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Biobutanol, a competitor for ethanol?

DuPont and BP, riding the global wave of enthusiasm for bio-based fuels, announced today that the two companies have developed a new biofuel called biobutanol that they say has 30% more energy density than ethanol. "Biobutanol is higher performance in the engine, and that will translate into higher miles to the gallon," said DuPont Chief Executive Charles Holliday.

DuPont and BP have been working on the new fuel since 2003. The two companies plan to introduce the first generation of biobutanol in the U.K. by the end of 2007. And they hope to roll out an improved second-generation biobutanol by 2010. DuPont and BP aim to make the fuel competitive with gasoline, even when oil is priced as low as $30 to $40 a barrel.

Luckily for us, biobutanol can be produced from classic tropical starch or sugar energy crops, such as cassava, sugar cane, sago and sorghum.

Currently, biofuels account for just 2% of all fuel consumption. But biofuels could account for 30% of all fuel consumption by 2020, some sources predict. Dupont and BP estimate the global market for biofuels could reach 87 billion gallons by 2020, up from just under 11 billion gallons today.

One distinct advantage of biobutanol: Cars can use close to 100% of the fuel without making any vehicle modifications, DuPont says. To use that high a concentration of ethanol, car engines have to be modified into something known as a "flex fuel vehicle."

"If they can deliver what they are saying, and you don't even have to make a change in the vehicle, that is a positive check in the column," says Ron Pernick, a partner at clean-technology research and publishing firm Clean Edge. "But I don't think we should look at this and say, 'Let's stop ethanol.' We are moving away from a world with one fuel source to one with a diversity of sources. The market will determine which are the winners and which are the losers."

Biobutanol can blend effectively with gasoline and ethanol, and can be used in existing transportation-pipeline infrastructure, DuPont says. The new butanol is a four-carbon alcohol, whereas ethanol is a two-carbon alcohol. Biobutanol has greater tolerance of moisture and lower vapor pressure, says DuPont Chief Innovation Officer Thomas Connelly.

Butanol as a fuel has been around a long time, but the cost to produce it was never competitive with gasoline. Using plant sugars as a feedstock, DuPont and BP believe they can favorably compete with gasoline. Meanwhile, DuPont and BP have to perfect the technology to improve production of biobutanol. "We're working on starch structures that can be more efficiently fermented," says Connelly.

BP and DuPont are not announcing the investment into the project. But Holliday says the investment is more akin to developing software than building a new chemical plant.

The fact that biobutanol is more energy efficient than ethanol does not wipe out ethanol's appeal, says Clean Edge's Pernick. Saab has come up with a new vehicle that it says gets better mileage from ethanol than from gasoline. "There are ways of getting around the energy-efficiency issue of ethanol," says Pernick.


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Ethablog: tracking Brazil's ethanol experience

Quicknote: bioenergy blogs
Here at the BioPact we cover news about biofuels from the Anglophone, the Hispanic, the Francophone and the Lusophone world. In the latter section, we obviously often refer to stories from Brazil.

The country's ethanol programme is the talk of town, nowadays. But clichés about it abound. Biofuels ally Henrique Oliveira from Detroit thought it was time to change that. And so he recently started Ethablog.
As Henrique writes, "Ethablog breaks and analyzes news from the Brazilian ethanol industry. It also presents information on the country's successful 31-year experience with a large ethanol-powered fleet."

As far as we can tell, Ethablog is the only resource in English that analyses and presents ethanol news straight from Brazil. So when you're discussing it with collegues and friends, show off some of that inside knowledge you gained from reading Henrique's blog.

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Mauritius launches small biogas pilot project

Quicknote: bioenergy technology
We were just mentioning small island states and the energy problems they encounter, when L'Express (Ile de Maurice) reports about a small biogas project on the island involving local cattle farmers. The idea is simple: instead of keeping cattle dung to dry in the sun (after which it is sold on the market as a fuel), the manure is collected and turned into biogas, using small biodigesters.

No spectacular project, no new technology, but in this case it solves many problems at once: households get electricity and gas for the first time; they get rid of the unhygienic circumstances in which they live (laying dung to dry in their backyard, which attracts all kinds of disease vectors), the biogas is cheaper than fossil fuels, and it takes away the pressure on local forests (that are being cut down for fuel wood). Moreover, waste biomass from households and local markets, will be added to the digesters, which is a neat way of getting the most out of it. After the biomass has been digested, the waste stream makes for an excellent biofertilizer.

This is obviously an often advocated approach to reducing energy poverty amongst rural communities in the developing world. And it is nice to see such small projects actually being implemented, here and there.

[Entry ends here.]

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