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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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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Biomass gasification systems to power thousands of villages in rural India

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has announced an agreement with Cummins India for the commercialisation and distribution of biomass gasification power generation systems that can be used to bring electricity to thousands of villages in rural India in a sustainable, decentralised and renewable way.

Under the agreement, Cummins India and IISc will jointly work on the integrated development and release of power generation systems based on so-called "Open Down Draft" biomass gasification systems [*.pdf] developed by the IISc. Cummins India will launch a new range of generator sets, which would work on gasifiers designed using the technology. The generator sets will be available in a range of ratings starting from 25 kWe, and extend to multiple unit power plants over 1.5 MWe.

Rural India has a large biomass stock, a low-cost and sustainable fuel source, and gasification technologies are one of the most versatile conversion methods to utilize this energy potential. Prof P.J. Paul, IISc Bangalore, says that "Our technology package known as `Open Top Re-burn Down Draft Biomass Gasifier' generates gas from a range of biomass sources that comprises forest residue, agricultural residue, bagasse, and so on. The Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES) has estimated more than 1,700 MW potential for producer gas as fuel from biomass which can help power the more than 125,000 villages that are unelectrified today."
Some background to this solid biofuel conversion technology, which is also known as 'gengas', 'generator gas', 'producer gas' or 'wood gas' technology:
The principle of downdraft gasification was developed during World War II, when there was a shortage of petroleum fuels. Cars ran on charcoal, via a gasifier that most often was placed back in the car. However, this technology was only an emergency solution as it required much knowledge and maintenance. When petroleum fuels became readily available after the war, gasification technology for cars was abandoned.

During the 70's, small-scale gasification caught new attention for application in developing countries. Electricity is the basis for the modern society and essential in a household to provide quality of life. Many of these countries have rural electrification programmes to extend the electrical grid to all people, but often it may be more expensive to extend the national grid than finding a local solution, especially for remote areas. Very often, the countries lack infrastructure and means, and furthermore there is often shortage of petroleum fuels.

One solution to power a village is to build a small local power plant. A gasifier, running on local biomass, may power a stationary engine to produce mechanical power, either for pumping water or to generate electricity. A considerable number of gasifier-engine plants have been installed in the developing world with funds from foreign aid organisations. Some are successful, but many do not work properly and cause engine failures. To operate the technology, knowledge and skills are needed to regularly register parameters like temperatures, pressures, flows and gas composition. It is also essential to optimise gasifier designs, before connecting an engine or a genset to it.
So biomass gasification technologies have been around for the past three decades, but they have not been optimised for use by rural people. The collaboration between the IIsc and Cummins signals that large-scale commercialisation of the technology with products designed for optimised operations and uptime is now finally being taken seriously.

This comes at a time when India is actively turning towards bioenergy and biofuels as alternatives to fossil fuels, with several different bioconversion technologies being the focus of intense research and development, and policy work (see India's National Biomass Gasifier Program).
This energy system not only utilizes biomass in a way that makes it competitive with fossil fuels, but it also saves CO2 emissions and reduces SOx and NOx gasses. As such, it makes for a good candidate for Clean Development Mechanism projects:
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Mr Rampraveen Swaminathan, vice-president of Cummins India, said that "Cummins is committed to developing power generation technologies based on lower cost and sustainable fuels. This initiative provides a significant lifecycle cost advantage over hydrocarbon fuels and also enables us to develop sustainable energy systems: "Over the past two years we have been working on making several changes in our engine and genset designs to ensure that our products meet desired efficiency levels. The systems can provide power plants up to 1.5 MWe which makes it a very attractive option for industry as well."

Under the agreement, Cummins India will manufacture pre-integrated generator sets, which will be used in projects developed internally or through licensees approved by IISc for manufacture of gasification systems.

More information:

IISc, Centre for Sustainable Technologies, 2004, Biomass gasification technology – a route to meet energy needs, Current Science, 87/7 [*.pdf]

IISc, Combustion, Gasification & Propulsion Lab: Technology of Biomass Gasification [*.pdf], broad overview

Institutionen för Energiteknik: Gasification of biomass in an open-top downdraft reactor - overview of the technology.

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Chile stocks rise on biofuels potential

Quicknote bioenergy potential
Chilean stocks edged up at the end of last week on news that Iansa, Chile's lone sugar producer, and Empresa Nacional del Petroleo (ENAP), the country's state owned oil company, concluded a large feasibility study on the future of Chile's biofuels industry. The preliminary studies show that Chile has a "large potential" for the production of ethanol and biodiesel, news that acted as a powerful force on the Iansa stock (which surged 8.23 percent).

Investors are getting enthusiastic about the company's potential involvement in biofuels development. Added to this came the news that world sugar prices are rebounding.
The two companies will work with authorities on setting "a country strategy related to biofuels" to help reduce Chile's dependence on imported fossil fuels, ENAP said. Securing adequate energy supplies runs atop the government's agenda due to problems with Argentine natural gas supply amid a growing economy.
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