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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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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A look at the EU's work on the standardisation of solid biofuels

The market for solid biofuels is growing very rapidly, with more and more large powerplants using biomass (residues, pellets, briquettes, woodchips) as a fuel source either to be co-fired with coal or to be used as a single fuel. Smaller systems, such as combined-heat and power (CHP) biomass plants that not only deliver clean electricity to towns and city districts, but warm water as well, are seeing massive investments too in Europe.
Several large utilities even go so far as to import raw biomass from all over the world (wood from Canada and Latin-America, palm kernels from SE Asia, coffee and cocoa residues from West-Africa...).

When a market is expanding so rapidly, the need for standards increases. Contrary to liquid biofuels, such standards for solid bioenergy feedstocks are currently missing. This is why the EU has set in motion an institutional machinery aimed at establishing such technical standards. Biomass is a renewable energy source that can contribute substantially to achieve the GHG emission reduction aims. To smoothen the utilisation of this huge potential, biomass must be integrated much better into the energy system. Therefore, the creation of a dynamic and sustainable Europe-wide market for solid biofuels is urgently needed. A main prerequisite for this are clear and understandable "market rules" which ensure that the properties and the quality of the solid biofuels to be traded are well-known to all the players: producers, traders and end-users.

The currently ongoing European standardisation process develops such "market rules". Such standards are needed to define key properties of different biofuels as well as for test methods to prove if the defined key properties are met. This also implies the need for standards for sampling and sample reduction as well as for fuel quality assurance.

An international conference to be held in Leipzig in october will give a comprehensive overview of the current status and the results of these standardisation efforts carried out by CEN Technical Committee 335 "Solid Biofuels". In addition, the results of the European Commission research project "BioNorm" supporting the standardisation process will be presented.

Standardization might seem to be a bit boring as a subject. But the EU's standards often have a huge impact outside the EU and as the world's largest economy, the EU can afford itself to use standardization as a political instrument. This is illustrated best by the famous REACH law which the EU finalized recently. The law, regulating the use of chemicals in products, now forces all manufacturers who want to sell their products in the EU, to comply with the very stringent, revolutionary standards. One single law has transformed an entire global industry.
We think the same might happen with biofuels. Many countries can't wait to export their biomass - in whatever form - to the large EU market, but they will have to conform to the standards which promise to be stringent, not only on the technical front but also when it comes to social and environmental criteria. Standards can regulate an industry for the better. But of course, they can also act as a barrier. Or even as a protectionist measure.

So which criteria is the EU currently using in the standardization process for solid biofuels? Let us have a look:
:: :: :: :: :: :: ::

First of all there are the purely technical standards and methods to determine whether a solid biofuel product complies. We sum some of those up, just to present an overview of what solid biofuels producers might have to take into account in the future:

-Standards and methods for the determination of moisture content
-Standards and methods for the determination of ash content
-Standards and methods for sampling particulate material transported in lorries
-Standards and methods for preparing sampling plans and sampling certificates
-Standards and methods for sample preparation
-Standards and methods for the determination of calorific value
-Fuel specifications and classes
-Standards and methods for the determination of bulk density
-Determination of total content of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen
-Methods for the determination of the water soluble content of chloride, sodium and potassium
-Method for the determination of the content of volatile matter
-Methods for the determination of particle size distribution
-Methods for the determination of particle density
-Methods for the determination of mechanical durability of pellets and briquettes
-Fuel quality assurance
-Determination of total content of sulphur and chlorine
-Determination of major elements
-Calculation of analyses to different bases
-Determination of minor elements

A whole list, with more sub-sections and methodologies.

Secondly, and beyond mere technical standards are standards that will be implemented via certification instruments:

-social sustainability standards, dealing with the circumstances in which labor is used during the production of solid biofuels (especially aimed at biofuels coming from the developing world)
-environmental sustainability standards, covering environmental aspects of the production process itself, but also taking into account CO2 emissions released during the entire logistical chain which stretches from the farmgate to the end-user (again, long-distance trade of e.g. palm kernels from South East Asia to Europe might find it difficult to comply with such a criterion).

For the time being, the latter standards are not fixed by the EU and they are voluntarily implemented and publicized by the industry itself. Several formal attempts at establishing certification criteria for solid biomass are underway.

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