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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, August 03, 2006

Biofuels for aviation, the next challenge

Quicknote aviation biofuels

Rudimentary map used to show how much land is needed to produce enough bioenergy to fuel all U.S. airtraffic - map used during heated 'Peak Oil' debate in 2004.

A few years ago, one of our members was involved in a roundtable on oil depletion - now commonly known as 'Peak Oil' - and he focused on the potential of biofuels. A question and a critique that kept coming up was the notion that with Peak Oil, the aviation industry would collapse first, since its fuel costs are the single most determining factor for its profits. Hydrogen would not save the industry because the gas requires entirely new and bulky airplanes; batteries are obviously out of the question as well; synthetic fuels are too expensive. "But how about bio-jetfuel?", our member asked. The critics laughed, brushed the idea off the table and went on to the next point on the agenda - aviation was doomed, no question about it.
Since then, a lot has changed, and biofuels for aviation are being taken seriously. First there was the Brazilian company Embraer that manufactured an airplane powered entirely by ethanol. Then visionary venture capitalist Richard Branson shocked the world by announcing that he is investing in aviation biofuels, predicting that they would supply 100% of his Virgin fleet of airplanes in the coming two decades (Recently he has broadened his idea and bets all out on Virgin Biofuels - for personal transport, trains and aviation). Later, Boeing produced an interesting report on renewable green aviation fuels - focussing on biojetfuel from first generation crops [see resources below]. And more recently the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) released a solicitation calling under its Biofuel Program for the exploration of energy alternatives and fuel efficiency efforts in a bid to reduce the military’s reliance on traditional fossil fuels for aircraft. DARPA is looking for processes that will efficiently produce alternative non-petroleum based military jet fuel from agriculture or aquaculture crops.

Flying on biofuels is a serious challenge, though. Current commercial biofuel production processes do not yield alternative fuels that meet the higher energy density and wide operating temperature range necessary for civilian and military aviation uses. What is needed is the development of an affordable alternative production process that will achieve a 60 percent or greater conversion efficiency, by energy content, of crop oil to aviation fuel (JP-8) and elucidate a path to 90 percent conversions in order to stay competitive.

Ideally, such a production process uses limited sources of external energy, is adaptable to a range or blend of feedstock crop oils, and produces process by-products that have ancillary manufacturing or industrial value. Current first-generation biodiesel fuels are 25 percent lower in energy density than JP-8 and exhibit unacceptable cold- flow features at the lower extreme of the required JP-8 operating temperature range (minus 28 degrees C, -50 degrees F).

It is anticipated that the key technology developments needed to obtain these goals will result from a cross-disciplinary approach spanning the fields of process chemistry and engineering, materials engineering, biotechnology, and propulsion system engineering.

But at least, bio-jet fuel is being taken seriously. The laughs are over.

  • Dagget, Dave, Alternate Fuelled Aircraft, presented to Boeing’s Transportation Research Board, 23 january 2006 [*.pdf].
  • The Potential for Renewable Energy Sources in Aviation [*.pdf]. Looks at the feasibility of nuclear aircraft (not safe), methanol and ethanol (too low energy density), bio-methane (low volumes and limited available quantity). Retained options: liquefied H2, synthetic kerosene (including Biomass-to-Liquids) and biokerosene (from oil crops).
  • Worldchanging: Fly Green.
[Entry ends here.]
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