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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, July 06, 2006

Conference about biomass imports from the developing world

André Faaij, coordinator of Research Energy Supply & System Studies (Copernicus Institute, Utrecht University) who wrote several studies about the potential of international biomass trade and who led the IEA's Bioenergy Task 40, Maarten Visschers of the Gelderse MilieuFederatie (Environmental organisation) and Wim Wolters of Belgian energy firm Electrabel which runs a large biomass fired powerplant based on wood feedstocks imported from all over the world, will present their view on the sustainability of bio-energy at a conference held by the Stichting Ruraal Wageningen.
This is the first in a series of conferences focussing on non-technological aspects of biofuels and bioenergy (such as geopolitics, climate change and sustainability, food versus fuel, trade and certification, and international bioenergy policies and trade agreements).

The first debate will focus on the question 'How sustainable is it to produce energy in the Netherlands with imported biomass?' Subjects that will be addressed are: sustainability criteria and the cultivation of biomass with possible negative effects for the rainforest and food production in third world countries.

This is of particular interest to us here at the Biopact, and we'll be reporting back on how things went at the conference. If you happen to be around in Holland, make sure to join in.

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Bioconversion Blog looks at biomass technologies

Last week we heard a lot about new and optimized technologies for the conversion of biomass into usable biofuels and biomaterials. There was the news about using algae to purify biogas, or the French program that is developing a novel kind of fluidized bed reactor and optimized Fischer-Tropsch processes for the gasification and consequent liquefaction of biomass; there was the news about researchers who found an efficient process to make a chemical intermediate called HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural) from fructose from biomass, which can be used to make a series of biopolymers and green plastics, and the Japanese and Chinese accomplishment of optimizing the production of synthetic fuels from wood and bio-oil from waste biomass; Brazil's H-bio, a new way to make biodiesel through hydrogen hydrogenation of vegetable oils mixed with diesel fuel, was in the news as well.

C. Scott Miller from California tracks this kind of developments in detail in Bioconversion Blog. The blog keeps handy, monthly digests which offer us a quick look at the headlines, which are then further explored in-depth.

But the blog keeps a broader perspective. As Scott says:
This Blog is home to news and comments about emerging BioEnergy technologies as the fossil fuel energy paradigm shifts to renewable energy. Direct links to information sites and breaking stories are provided from major publications, blogs, and associations.
So for those of us interested in the scientific and technical aspects of emerging bioenergy technologies, make sure to check out Bioconversion Blog.

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Biofuels offer new hope for Kenyan cane farmers

Changing trends in global sugar production and energy supply have created an urgent need for the industry in Kenya to diversify. "The sugar industry suffers heavy indebtedness, gross under-capitalisation, inefficiencies in both the field and factory processes and high production costs," said Peter Kegode, a Kenyan sugar industry and ethanol specialist and chairman of Sugar Campaign for Change (Succam), an organisation fighting for rights for sugar farmers.

Also looming, he added, are two potential external threats: the February 2008 expiry of the Comesa safeguard measures and implementation of sugar reforms by the European Union. But both sugar and its by-products have huge potential for value-addition. "Ethanol is increasingly acquiring global recognition as a renewable energy and substitute for fossil fuels," said Mr Kegode. To manufacturers and farmers, it also lessens dependence on commercialisation of the sole product - sugar."

Such a development is also essential to governments confronted with the pressure of high population growth on food, energy and contamination of the environment. Under pressure from soaring oil prices and growing environmental constraints, momentum is gathering for a major international switch from fossil fuels to renewable bio-energy sources, such as sugarcane or sunflower seeds, according to the United Nations.

In a statement, Alexander Muller, assistant director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Sustainable Development Department says: "The gradual move away from oil has begun. Over the next 15 to 20 years, we may see bio-fuels providing 25 per cent of the world's energy needs."

FAO's interest in bio-energy stems from the positive impact that energy crops are expected to have on rural economies and the opportunity offered to countries to diversify their energy sources. "At the very least, it could mean a new lease of life for commodities such as sugar, whose international prices have plummeted."

Prospecting for fossil fuels has now shifted to the East African countries, which are considered some of the last frontiers for new oil discoveries. The surge in the price of crude oil beyond $70 per barrel is responsible for renewed global interest in energy security.

The disruption of the Nigeria crude oil supplies, the nuclear stand-off between Iran and the US and the high demand for energy to support China's industrial growth exacerbate the crisis.

"Oil, at more than $70 a barrel, makes bio-energy potentially more competitive," says Mr Muller. "Also, in the past decade global environmental concerns and energy consumption patterns have built up pressure to introduce more renewable energy into national energy plans and to reduce reliance on fossil fuels."

This is a clear indication that the renewable energy options for bio-fuels and bio-diesel will be driven by agribusiness and increased production of agricultural raw materials meet increasing demand for energy supply.

Locally, venture capital investment companies, including Actis, are positioning themselves to tap into the biofuel supply chain. Early last month, the company allocated $100 million (Sh7.2 billion) for investment in agri-business. Kenya is poised to tap into the biofuel supply chain using commodities such as sugarcane, maize and sweet sorghum. It is important, said Mr Kegode, that producers position themselves by forming energy companies than can negotiate better prices and enhanced compensation from their investments.

Currently, there are two existing stand-alone ethanol plants - the Kisumu molasses and an agrochemical plant. For Kenya to build up an adequate supply of ethanol either for domestic blending purposes or for the export market, Mr Kegode said that the country would require five plants: two in maize-producing regions and three in sugar-producing zones.

Factors pushing for such a momentous change in the world energy market include environmental constraints such as increased global warming and the Kyoto Protocol's curbs on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses as well as a growing perception by governments of the risks of dependence on oil.

FAO highlighted Brazil as an example for the rest of the world. Latin America's largest country is the world's biggest producer of bio-ethanol and one million Brazilian cars already run on fuel made from sugarcane, with most new cars powered by "flex fuel" engines. Introduced three years ago, they use either gasoline or bioethanol, or any mix of the two.

The Nation (Nairobi), via AllAfrica.

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