<body> -------------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home / Archive
Nature Blog Network

    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.

Creative Commons License

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A look at Asian plantation stocks

Even though a Swiss bank and a commodity investment firm recently announced the launch of a "biofuels index" that will cover prices for a range of commodities used in the production of ethanol and biodiesel, we already have an instrument that more or less allows us to assess general market trends for those commodities.
We are talking about the Bursa Malaysia and its Plantation Index. Some 40 tropical plantation companies are listed on it and they have witnessed a boost on biodiesel (mainly from palm oil), reflected in a number of new plants coming online.

How did the Plantation Index perform on a year on year basis? And what is the outlook for the coming year?

The Bursa Malaysia Plantation Index jumped 37% from a year ago, beating the Composite Index.

Biodiesel development: demand for palm oil as feedstock for biodiesel gave strong support to Crude Palm Oil (CPO) prices, lifting them to a Ringitt 1,300/tonne level ($351 per ton, or $48 per barrel).

In a recent report by Malaysia Equity Research [*.pdf]the average CPO price is revised upwards for 2006 to RM 1,500 ($405 per ton or $55 per barrel) and RM 1,600 (US$432 per ton or $59 per barrel) for 2007.

High energy prices have led to higher CPO prices traded in expectation of greater demand for biofuel use. In seeking cheaper alternative to fossil fuel, biodiesel is the most viable alternative so far, and with strong support from the government and availability of technology to extract diesel from vegetables, most industry players have shown interest to invest in biodiesel plants. To date, there are more than 10 biodiesel plants to be built in Malaysia (Table 2), the latest company being Mission Biofuels from Australia, which recently launched an IPO on the Australia Stock Exchange to raise A$27m to build a biodiesel plant in Kuantan. The extra demand for the biodiesel is likely to support palm oil prices at above the RM1,300/tonne level. If crude oil prices remain at US$70 per barrel, palm oil is viable for biodiesel production even at RM1,700 per tonne level [see first graph].

Article continues

Biobutanol and Direct Alcohol Fuel Cells

Quicknote Direct Alcohol Fuel Cells
Now that biobutanol is in the spotlight because of BP and Dupont's announcement, we can look back at the work that's being done on Direct Alcohol Fuel Cells (DAFC's). As we reported earlier, these cells, for which platinum-free catalysts have been developed, operate on hydrogen, methanol, ethanol and more complex hydrocarbons (such as ethylene glycol).

Biobutanol can be added to that list. This is another argument for the development of the alcohol economy - as opposed to the problematic hydrogen economy. Biobutanol gets the most out of a sugar or starch rich biomass feedstock stream. Combined with the high efficiency (50%) and low production cost of the DAFC's, we might soon see our laptops, our motorcyles and our cars making use of a 'bio-fuelcell' power system running on biobutanol, ethanol or any blend with gasoline.

[entry ends here.]

Article continues

Ethanol runs into supply problems in Thailand, Philippines

Thailand and the Philippines are following in Brazil's footsteps in switching from fuel oil to ethanol at their domestic petrol stations, but progress has been slowed by sticky problems with soaring sugar prices. Like Brazil - one of the world's few ethanol success stories - both Thailand and the Philippines are net importers of oil and major growers of sugarcane.

The plant is one of the raw materials commonly used to make ethanol, which when mixed with petrol makes ethanol for vehicles. As soaring petroleum prices translated into lower economic growth, higher manufacturing costs, inflation and disgruntled car owners, the governments of Thailand and the Philippines have launched national plans to switch motorists over to gasohol that is mixed with either 5 per cent or 9 per cent ethanol.

But sugar prices are soaring as well, which is why Thailand has decided to diversify its biofuels feedstock portfolio by including cassava, which we reported about here earlier.

Thailand plans to ban all sales of 95 octane benzine - the preferred fuel for luxury cars - at petrol stations nationwide in January, forcing filling stations to sell 95 octane gasohol instead and inviting protests.

The Philippines, under a biofuel bill currently being debated by Congress, will enforce the sale of 95 octane gasohol at petrol stations within two years, and 91 octane gasohol within four years.

But both plans are threatened by a near-quadrupling of international sugar prices over the past year which has led to supply shortages.

Gasohol sales in the Philippines have been negligible this year, and what is available is mixed with ethanol imported from Brazil. While gasohol is becoming popular in Thailand, the government has been forced to subsidize it this year.

Sugar prices in Thailand have shot up from 1,200 baht (31.50 dollars) per ton last year to 4,500 baht (118 dollars) per ton this year, up 275 per cent. The surge is nearly parallel to price hikes in world oil prices.

'We did not expect the rise in world sugar prices,' admitted Manoon Siriwan, senior executive vice president of the Bangchak Petroleum Company, one of Thailand's leading oil refineries that also operates filling stations nationwide.

Bangchak, a government-owned enterprise, was Thailand's first refinery to offer gasohol to motorists at its 500 petrol stations two years ago.

Offering both 95 octane gasohol and 91 octane at 1.50 baht (4 cents) less per litre than the market price for similar benzines, Bangchak's gasohol has proved a marketing success story.

'Since we launched gasohol two years ago, Bangchak's market share of gasoline sales has increased,' said Manoon. 'While the industry's growth has been 7 per cent, ours has been 18 per cent.'

Thailand currently produces 3.6 million litres of gasohol a day, including 80,000 litres.

Mitr Phol Sugar Corp, one of Thailand's largest sugar mills, has reportedly agreed to sell the government its molasses stock at a fixed price to produce 40 million litres of ethanol for the remainder of the year.

But at 25.30 baht (66 cents) per litre, the government will need to subsidize gasohol retailers at 2.30 baht (6 cents) a litre to make it worth their while to distribute the gasohol, said Manoon.

Next year, Thailand will need to switch from using sugar to tapioca, or cassava, a cash crop that tends to have less volatile price fluctuations, said Pornchai Rujiprapa, deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Energy.

Thailand's private sector has invested in four new ethanol factories that will turn tapioca into 510,000 litres of ethanol by next year, hiking the country's national output to close to 900,000 litres, enough to produce 9 million litres of gasohol a day.

The Philippines has taken a slightly different tack.

The government plans to set up a total of 10 ethanol plants nationwide within the next two years, producing up to 1 million litres of ethanol a day.

But instead of using tapioca, plans call for establishing 12 new sugarcane planations to feed the ethanol plants.

'Ethanol would be competing with the price of sugar unless we develop an area only for ethanol, that's why I thought of putting up a plantation of sugarcane for ethanol in order to have a distinct area for ethanol,' said Philippines Finance Secretary Herminio Teves, who anticipates that sugar prices will remain high for the next five years due to increasing ethanol demand.

But it is not clear how the government envisages price setting for sugar destined for ethanol production, and strong political will is obviously necessary in both countries to make ethanol work.

For instance, protests are expected to delay Thailand's benzine ban next January, since several multinationals such as Caltex and Esso have yet to introduce gasohol at their stations, and Bangkok's powerful luxury car lobby - including many powerful politicians - are expected to balk at filling their tanks with gasohol.

'But we have to do it. It is necessary for the country to use our own raw materials,' said Pornchai.

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur, via M&C.

Article continues