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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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Saturday, September 09, 2006

China and India sign strategic memorandum on science & technology cooperation

The two countries that will largely determine our future, China and India, have just signed their first ever ministerial-level memorandum of understanding for cooperation on science and technology. India's Minister for Science, Technology and Earth Sciences Kapil Sibal and his Chinese counterpart Xu Guanhua signed the MoU after they held talks in Beijing, as part of a series of meetings marking the 'India-China Friendship Year 2006'. Current Indo-Chinese cooperation in the science and technology field falls under a rather old inter-governmental S&T agreement signed between the two countries in Beijing during the visit of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988. Meanwhile, the world's political situation has changed dramatically and both countries' economies have grown impressively but face a persistent energy crisis. The MoU comes as political relations between the former Asian rivals are warming and as bilateral trade is increasing rapidly.

The agreement is important because energy, climate change, biotechnology and agronomy are high on the agenda. The cooperation is based on both public interest and pure science and technology 'pillars':
  • Environment and energy: the two governments hope to collaborate on solving environmental problems by exchanging India and China's unique experiences amidst rising energy prices. Cooperation on research into alternative transport energies to combat energy insecurity and pollution in urban areas will be of strategic importance.
  • Biotechnology and agronomy: research into genomics, meteorology and biomass technologies have been singled out as concrete fields for cooperation. India has a lot to offer in agronomic sciences, considering the fact that the contribution of agriculture in India's gross domestic product (GDP) at 24% was higher than China's 14%, Mr Sibal said.
  • Climate change: India would stand to gain from China's expertise in climate change mitigation strategies (even though it is not clear which 'strategies' are being referred to here)
  • Nanotechnology: a "Nano-Science Forum" will be created, with research into applications in the field of energy technology being one component
The comprehensive agreement further foresees in exchanges in the fields of software and space technology, amongst other sectors. Science, Tech and Earth Sciences minister Kapil Sibal summarized the vision behind the agreement thus:
"When I think of brand China, I think the C stands for capacity and capability. Brand China is like a tsunami that floods the world markets. China's capacities are unmatched."

"When I think of India, I stands for innovation. Can you imagine what will happen if the I in India and the C in China were to get together? The innovation of India and the capacities and capabilities of China can overtake world trade."
Sibal further noted that Sino-Indian trade has already reached US$18 billion. China is destined to become India's largest trading partner. He added that China has a population of 1.3 billion and that India's has reached 1.1 billion. "If you add the association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN), the population of this region will touch 3 billion which means that we constitute half of the world's population." "So we have the market and we have the manpower. What we need is the technology. So let us start an Indo-China technology partnership. Let the strategic partnership for friendship become a strategic partnership for science and technology."

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Indonesia's biofuel program to bring 2.5 million jobs in three years time

In the developing world, biofuels mean jobs. Earlier, Indonesia already hailed its biofuel program as a strategy to alleviate poverty, but remained vague about the actual number of jobs it will bring. Today, the Indonesian government became more concrete and announced that its green energy crash program will generate 2.5 million jobs in under three years time. For a country with mass unemployment and poverty, this is indeed a great boost.

As part of an expanded poverty alleviation campaign, the Indonesian government would prioritize two programs to reach the goal of creating 15 million jobs before 2010: 'people empowerment' and 'biofuels'. Coordinating Minister for the People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie, claims that the 'people empowerment program' had actually been running since 1998 in 34,200 villages across the country. The program is expected to generate jobs for 12.5 million people, assuming each project will absorb 250 people in a specific area for three years, said Aburizal. "The projects work, but we need to extend them to 50,000 more villages by 2009," he said after a cabinet meeting Thursday. "The types of projects are determined based on local conditions."

The remaining 2.5 million jobs are expected to come as the government opens plantations to support its biofuel program. Critics have called the anti-poverty projects ineffective, pointing to the steady rise in the number of poor people over the past few years. But Aburizal said that without the programs, poverty rates would have been even higher. "We hope that the coordination between the relevant Cabinet ministers can go better. We have agreed that 20 percent of the total state budget allocated for poverty alleviation will go to these two programs," he said.

The government has increased next year's poverty alleviation budget to 51 trillion rupiah (€4.4 billion/US$5.6 billion ), from 43 trillion rupiah (€3.7billion/US$4.7 billion) in 2006 [entry ends here].
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Jatropha biodiesel superior: extensive testing in India results in car manufacturers' interest

Two C-class Mercedez Benz cars ran 6000 kilometres accross India, on pure jatropha biodiesel

The Central Salt & Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI), a small research body in Bhavnagar (Gujarat, India) was one of the first in India to extensively test jatropha based biodiesel in standard cars. When it began doing so in 2002, none of the big international or Indian car makers seemed interested, with the exception of German giant Daimler-Chrysler which decided to cooperate and set-up a pilot project together with the institute (more on this project here).

In 2004, two C-class Mercedes Benz cars completed nearly 6000 kilometres on 100% jatropha-biodiesel, without engine modifications. The project included an epic journey into the Himalayas to test the fuel's properties in harsh and cold weather conditions. The results were conclusive and promising: the cars emit 70 per cent less hydrocarbon, 80 per cent less particulate matter and sulphur, the fuel acts as a natural lubricant for the engines, and is safer than fossil diesel because of the much higher flash point of jatropha diesel (170° compared to 50° for fossil diesel); it withstands freezing temperatures easily. Endurance tests with tractors, generators and a Toyota Qualis further revealed that the B100 fuel's properties are superior to ordinary diesel and makes engines last longer.

Importantly, all the tests were carried out with 100% biodiesel and without engine modifications. This is why, according to Pushpito Kumar Gosh, director of the Institute, blending biodiesel with fossil diesel serves no purpose. Mr Gosh thinks the Indian government should concentrate on cultivating more Jatropha plants and 'jump' ahead to B100 rightaway.

The Institute's success has had predictable effects: today all major Indian car manufacturers (Tata and Hindustan), together with General Motors are now knocking on the CSMCRI's doors. A meeting between GM and the Institute is planned to take place next month. India is one of the world's fastest growing car markets, and a leader in jatropha cultivation, which forms part of its ambitious biofuels program. A recent mass campaign resulted in 3 million jatropha seedlings being planted in Chhattisgarh in one single day (see previous post) [entry ends here].
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