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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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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Father of Brazil's ethanol program speaks out

Quicknote history of biofuels
Brazil's biofuels program is the envy of the world. Conceived a quarter of a century ago, it is now seen as an example for other states. At the recent G8 top of highly industrialized nations, which focused on global energy issues, Brazil's president Lula made a speech about it, and the world leaders listened - quite a unique event and proof of the fact that Brazil's energy strategies are being taken seriously. Meanwhile, countries can't wait to sign bioenergy cooperation deals with Brazil - amongst them Japan, China and France... Obviously, the Brazilian way is gaining international attention and provides a new paradigm for energy security.

But how did it all start? And where is it really going? EthaBlog helps us out by presenting an in-depth interview with Mr. José Walter Bautista Vidal, the father of Brazil's successful Pro-Alcool program.
Ethablog is the only information source that focuses on Brazil's biofuels industry. Maintained by Henrique Oliveira - a multilingual economist with Brazilian roots - the blog looks at a wide range of issues, from economics and marketing, to the history of the program and the geopolitics of green fuels. The interview with Mr Vidal, entitled “Brazil’s Position in the Face of the New World Order”, takes a broad 'geopolitical' view on our green future.

Interestingly, as Henrique notes:
Mr. Vidal was a top government official during the height of Brazil’s extreme-right military dictatorship (1964-85). Yet he seems to think like Noam Chomsky. So I think we have the ideological spectrum covered.
I guess it’s safe to say that the speech (of which the following translation is just the first installment) is representative of what military strategists in Brazil think.
Read the first part of the interview with the man who got it all going, at EthaBlog.
[Entry ends here]
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Cardoon, a bioenergy crop suited for arid regions

Here at the Biopact we most often refer to tropical countries and their large biomass production potential. More arid regions, such as the vast zone where the Sahara desert gives way to the Sahel, or the North African mediterranean get less attention from the media when it comes to their bioenergy potential.
Several research projects are underway though to study different energy crops suited for such arid regions. Amongst them, the series of EU-funded projects that analyse common cardoon (Cynara cardunculus L.), a close relative of the globe artichoke (C. scopulus).
Cardoon is a drought tolerant perennial plant that requires relatively small amounts of water - a prerequisite for its suitability in arid regions. Its high biomass productivity stands at around 20 to 30 tonnes of dry matter per hectare, with the programs aiming at doubling this yield through selecting the best cultivars (current yields make cardoon equally productive as more commonly known bioenergy crops such as switchgrass or elephant grass). The plant contains oil bearing seeds that can be directly cold-pressed to obtain oil suitable for biodiesel, whereas the bulk of the biomass can either be used as a solid biofuel for the production of electricity and heat through direct combustion, or as a feedstock for thermochemical conversion into liquid biofuels.
The following projects on cardoon's potential as a bioenergy crop can be found in the BiomatNet database - Europe's biomaterials research and development information portal. They fall under the project "Global Process To Improve Cynara cardunculus Exploitation for Energy Applications":
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1. Cynara cardunculus L. as New Crop for Marginal and Set-Aside Lands, with the objectives of studying the following issues:

* Dry biomass production in typical set-aside lands of 5 different countries of the south of Europe (France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain) taking into account different culture conditions.
* Green forage and dry biomass harvesting tests.
* Soil-plant water relations study including the determination of the WUE (water use efficiency).
* Genotype collection from commercial cultivars and wild populations and estimation of their potential productivity.
* Green forage production during Autumn and Winter season and its influence on final biomass production. A specific study of ruminant nutrition will be carried out in order to evaluate the nutritive value of this forage. Yields on the order of 50 t/ha of green forage would be expected.
* Paper pulp production from branches and stalks after 3 different methods:

o Classical kraft procedure to be realized in Portugal.
o ASAM procedure to be realized in Germany.
o In-situ soda generation procedure from lime and sodium carbonate precursors to be realized in France.

* Biomass transformation yields into heat or electricity by means of IMW AFBC (Atmospheric Fluidized Bed Combustor) with information about the emission gases and volatile hydrocarbons. An optimization study of the pretreatments and fluidization capacity of this solid fuel will be included.

Considering the whole production-transformation as an integrated system its components impact on environment will be studied, mainly with regard to mineral nutrients, soil organic matter and carbon dioxide balance.
Finally, a feasibility study of the mentioned systems (production-transformation) will be done, and possible cost levels will be estimated for every product from Cyanara cardunculus biomass.

2. External Costs of the Biomass Fuel Cycle (ExternE), which aims to estimate the externalities of bio-electricity generation from agricultural energy crops in two Greek sites and two reference years by using, testing and further developing the existing methodology of the Joule Programmes.
The two project sites selected and described in detail are Site A: Orchomenos, Viotia, Central Greece; and Site B: Nea Kydonia, Chania, Crete.
A comparative analysis of five most promising energy plants has lead to the selection of fibre sorghum and Cynara cardunculus. The expected penetration, as well as the production, harvesting, and conversion systems of these two energy crops were quantitatively described for the two reference years (1995 and 2015).

The reference conversion technologies selected for both sites are advanced combustion and gasification, for reference years 1995 and 2015, respectively.

The following bioelectricity externalities were systematically assessed:

* Impacts of primary air pollutants to human health. Meteorological and technological data were used as inputs in an air dispersion model in order to predict the incremental air pollution due to the biomass conversion; based on the existing dose-response functions and by linking the results of the model with the local demographics, the impact on human health was quantified and economically valuated.
* Impacts from the upstream activities. Two such major activites were examined, i.e.,
o nitrogen leaching to ground water bodies, and
o soil erosion;
* the assessment of the above impacts was based on the methodology used by CEEETA, appropriately modified.
* Impacts on occupational health. Data collected from similar activities in Greece has made possible the estimation of the external cost of accidents, deaths and other injuries.
* Impacts from truck traffic. Although transportation of biomass has many impacts, the one assessed here, based on the available literature and data, was that of road damage due to biomass transport.

Other impacts were also considered, in an effort to complement qualitatively the existing methodological framework:

* effects on biodiversity, and
* effects from pesticide use.

Cardoon is currently being tested mainly in arid regions of Southern Europe, but since the plant naturally occurs in mediterranean Northern Africa it could become an important bioenergy crop, since the land base suitable for it is very large. It is too early to tell whether cardoon can be cultivated in the Sahel, but if it can, then this most difficult and poorest of regions could find a valuable new industry in it.

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Fuel cells that work on biogas - bypassing the hydrogen paradox

The 'hydrogen economy' that was hyped so much a few years ago, is not coming off the ground. This is due to several factors, one of them being the problematic production, storage and distribution of hydrogen gas. The paradox of the hydrogen paradigm is that the fuel cells that form a main component of it, are highly efficient, whereas, on the contrary, the production of hydrogen itself is highly inefficient. These two counteracting forces paralyse the development of the industry.

But a new development may change that. The Institute für Keramische Technologien und Systeme (IKTS) at Europe's top science & tech research body, the Fraunhofer Institute, has developed high temperature ceramic fuel cells that can operate on biogas. Earlier, we reported about a European company's direct ethanol fuel cells which hold great promise as they form the missing link between the biofuels industry and the fuel cell industry. Now Frauenhofer strengthens that connection.

Biogas can be locally produced from all kinds of biomass waste in a fairly straightforward way. The technology is widespread and simple, the biomass resource base is very large, and biogas systems are highly scaleable. Moreover, the gas can be fed to the existing natural gas infrastructure for distribution. All this makes biogas a much better candidate than hydrogen when it comes to using fuel cells.

Alexander Michaelis, director the IKTS in Dresden predicts that “ceramic high-temperature fuel cells will soon be a mass market." They are ideal as mobile power generators for motor homes, boats, trucks or cars, as well as in stationary applications for generating electricity, heating and cooling. By developing cost-effective, long-lasting stacks, the heart of a high-temperature fuel cell, IKTS researchers have now created conditions for commercial applications. Stacks are made up of thin ceramic plates on the surface of which fuels are converted directly into electrical power through an electrochemical process. Compared with the polymers used in low-temperature fuel cells, these ceramic cells have one distinct advantage: apart from pure hydrogen, they can also generate power from methane, gasoline, diesel, natural gas or biogas:
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The process is fairly simple from an engineering viewpoint and therefore cost-effective. Efficiency of more than 90 percent can be achieved as part of a combined heat/cooling and power system – outperforming alternative technologies.

However, the stacks inside the fuel cell need to withstand major stresses with operating temperatures reaching up to 1 000 degrees Celsius. In effect, a high reducing atmosphere is created on the combustion gas side of the ceramic cells as a counterpoint to the high oxidizing atmosphere on the air side. Developing materials that can constantly withstand these kinds of aggressive conditions is a challenge for seasoned materials researchers. Together with industry partners H.C. Starck GmbH, a subsidiary of Bayer AG, and Webasto AG, a team at the IKTS is developing composite materials made out of metal, ceramics and glass. These materials are ideal for building low-cost, robust stacks – a service life of over 5,000 hours has already been achieved. The new stack design is due to go into series production shortly.

Prediction Made that High Temperature Ceramic Fuel Cells will become Mobile Power Generators - Azom.

The Fraunhofer IKTS, Dresden.

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Indonesia plans to ban molasses exports to support biofuel development

Quicknote biofuel policies, feedstocks
Indonesia's Ministry of Industry is proposing a ban on its industry's export of sugar cane molasses, a raw material for the production of ethanol, as a measure to support the development of alternative energy biofuel. Molasses is the residue that remains after canes have been crushed and boiled and their sugar extracted. The remaining black syrup still contains large amounts of sugar that can be fermented into ethanol.

In its report, the ministry said Indonesia's molasses-based ethanol output is approximately 170 million liters per annum, of which 27,000 tons are exported. Ethanol from molasses is also used as a raw material for alcoholic drinks and drugs. Molasses has several other uses, most notably as a very nutritious animal feed component.

Now that Indonesia has launched a bioenergy crash program, the biomass flows in and out of the country are being analysed and their direction revised and changed according to the needs of the new biofuel policy.

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