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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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Friday, June 30, 2006

Green chemistry, biorefineries and second generation biofuels

Things are speeding up. Yesterday's announcement that researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed an efficient process to make a chemical intermediate called HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural) from fructose from biomass, is entirely in the line of the integrated vision on biofuels and biomaterials, which we and our friends report about.
These petroleum-free polymers show that it is becoming increasingly likely that almost all products from the petro-chemical industry, will find a green counterpart based on sugars and oleogeanous biomass.

The researchers:
The new process goes beyond making fuel from plants to make industrial chemicals from plants...Dumesic's research group made a series of improvements that raised the HMF output, and also made the HMF easier to extract.

Once made, HMF is fairly easy to convert into plastics or diesel fuel. Although the biodiesel that has made headlines lately is made from a fat (even used cooking oil), not a sugar, both processes have similar environmental and economic benefits, Dumesic says. Instead of buying petroleum from abroad, the raw material would come from domestic agriculture. Expanding the source of raw material should also depress the price of petroleum.

The idea itself is not new, and in fact, Madison has long been a hotbed for research into biomass conversion for kicking the petroleum habit. Professor James Dumesic and his team, however, have broken new ground in terms of creating a process that can compete economically with the more conventional and unsustainable models.
Trying to understand how to use catalytic processes to make chemicals and fuel from biomass is a growing area. Instead of using the ancient solar energy locked up in fossil fuels, we are trying to take advantage of the carbon dioxide and modern solar energy that crop plants pick up.
HMF can be converted into plastics, petroleum or diesel fuel extenders, or even into diesel fuel itself. The two-phase process operates at high fructose concentrations (10 to 50 wt.%), achieves high yields (80% HMF selectivity at 90% fructose conversion), and delivers HMF in a separation-friendly solvent.

Prof. James Dumesic—a co-founder of Virent, a company which is commercializing the aqueous phase reforming technology he developed (earlier post)—and his research team reports on this work in the 30 June issue of the journal Science.

The basic approach to this type of biofuel technology is the controlled removal of oxygen from carbohydrates to obtain oxygenated hydrocarbons. The controlled elimination of water from sugars has been studied extensively, and can provide HMF, levulinic acid, and other organic acids.

Although other researchers have previously converted fructose into HMF, Dumesic’s research group made a series of improvements that raised the HMF output and also made the HMF easier to extract.

The new process first dehydrates the fructose in the aqueous phase with the use of an acid catalyst (hydrochloric acid or an acidic ion-exchange resin) with dimethylsulfoxide and/or poly(1-vinyl-2-pyrrolidinone) added to suppress undesired side reactions.

The HMF product then moves to a solvent that carries it to a separate location, where it is extracted. Once made, HMF can be converted into plastics or diesel fuel.

Dumesic is also exploring methods to convert other sugars and even more complex carbohydrates into HMF and other chemical intermediates. In earlier work, Dumesic and his team had demonstrated the dehydration and hydrogenation of an aqueous stream of sorbitol to hexane.

This field of study is ripe for further rapid advances as the revolution in catalysis, computational modeling, and combinatorial chemistry will lead to a suite of catalytic systems that will facilitate the conversion of biomass polysaccarides to liquid alkanes and oxyalkanes for fuel applications.

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Zimbabwe finds hope in biodiesel

Quicknote bioenergy economics
Zimbabwe is a country traversing a series of social, polticial and economic crises. On top of this, it is facing an unprecedented energy crisis. The land-locked, non-oil producing country has seen fuel prices skyrocketing and the entire country has come to a literal standstill.
Yesterday, we reported about the opportunity bioenergy offers for energy 'leapfrogging', as illustrated by Zambia's example. And like its neighbor Zambia, Zimbabwe is now investing heavily in biodiesel.
Africa News Dimension reports that a joint-venture between a European and a South African agribizz company is building a plant that will produce 10% of Zimbabwe's liquid fuel needs. The feedstock to be used is Jatropha curcas, which grows well in the more arid regions of the country.

[entry ends here.]

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SusDev Council report on biofuels calls for 'rigorous' verification procedures

Here at the BioPact we often focus on the sustainability of biofuels and bioenergy. Recently, we wrote about the question of certification. Today, the British Sustainable Development Commission published a new report [*.pdf] examining the role of biofuels. It calls for rigorous verification procedures to be associated with the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) announced earlier this year.

The report also concludes, in the second of three recommendations, that the Department for Transport must make it clear how the mandatory reporting framework will address complex issues such as the potential for deforestation and societal impacts.

In its third main recommendation, the SDC proposes that the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation should be designed with graduated incentives for low carbon fuels from the outset to help stimulate the development of cleaner, 'second-generation' biofuels.

Meanwhile, the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) reports that European Union output of biodiesel rose by 65% to 3.2 million tonnes in 2005, making the EU the world's largest producer. The EBB expects the rise to continue this year, with EU capacity expected to grow to 6.07 million tonnes.

Within the EU, Germany remained the top biodiesel producer last year - with output of 1.6 million tonnes - followed by France with 492,000 tonnes. Biodiesel currently makes up around 80% of EU biofuel production. The EBB say that the latest biofuel production figures confirm that the 2% global biofuels target for 2005 has not yet been met.

The UK's Biofuels Corporation is close to completion of a major biodiesel production plant on Teesside.

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KwaZulu-Natal stands to benefit from focus on biofuels

In South Africa, biofuels has become the new buzzword in the government, and the country's large maize and sugar sectors - especially in KwaZulu-Natal - stand to benefit the most. President Thabo Mbeki has appointed a task team to look at the viability of biofuels for South Africa.

Mbeki dropped the words biofuels, ethanol and biodiesel in his State of the Nation address last month, identifying them as one to the sectors of focus in the government's Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa.

A week later, Minister of Minerals and Energy Lindiwe Hendricks, briefing the media on the issue, said the establishment and growth of the biofuels industry was one possible solution to addressing both economic and social challenges, and would be an important contributor to the initiative.

She said South Africa imported about 60% of its crude oil requirements, which had economic implications in terms of balance of payments, as well as vulnerability to rising crude oil prices.

At a subsequent KwaZulu-Natal Agribusiness Conference in Durban, two sessions were dedicated to discussions around biofuels, ethanol and alternative transport fuel dynamics in South Africa.

Nadia Hamid, Deputy Director of the Department of Minerals and Energy's Renewable Energies Division, told delegates high-level talks were under way between 11 national and provincial government departments about the development of a framework around biofuel production in South Africa.

She said a presidential task team had been set up to take the process forward.

However, no projects will be able to go ahead without the necessary legislation being tabled in parliament.

Source: The Mercury.

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