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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 17, 2006

Micro-biorefineries: nanotechnology and bioenergy meet

Two diametrically opposed tendencies are emerging in the nascent bioenergy sector. On the one hand, green fuels like ethanol, biodiesel, biogas or solid biomass are seen as world 'commodities' that can be traded on a global market, and shipped over oceans across the planet in huge vessels, or pumped through biofuel pipelines a thousand kilometres long. As such, the biofuels industry can be compared to the oil and gas sector, which symbolises the era of globalisation, dependence, 'deterritorialisation', centralisation, and top-down decision-making.

But there is another vision, one in which decentralisation, independence, localisation, '(re-)territorialisation' and dynamic, bottom-up decision making processes are the key concepts. Local communities become owners of their own energy infrastructure, resources and politics. It is within this paradigm that a consortium of British universities, supported by the University of Newcastle's spin-off Intensified Technologies Inc (ITI), is working towards the development of 'micro-biorefineries' that use locally produced biomass feedstocks and turn them into fuels, electricity, heat, and green specialty chemicals at a local scale, and fine-tuned to the ever changing needs of a particular community. The fascinating project combines nanotechnology with biotechnology to get there and promises to bring a highly dynamic, multi-purpose micro-factory to our neighborhoods.

The idea is to integrate different bioconversion processes, and to scale them down radically ('Process Intensification and Miniaturisation'). Three conversion steps are integrated, each using the residues of the precedent step:
  1. a first conversion and pretreatment of the base biomass through bacterial breakdown into a 'bio-sludge' with a high energy density
  2. conversion of the biomass residues that result from this process into ethanol through fermentation
  3. gasification of the residues that remain from this fermentation process into a synthesis gas, which has to be purified
Prison cells for bacteria
Key to the integration of the steps is the control of the behavior of bacteria, which play a role both in the breakdown and pretreatment of the initial biomass, as well as in the fermentation and purification steps. In order to control bacteria in a way that does not rely on manipulating their genetic properties, the consortium is developing porous nano-structures designed on a molecular scale. A new production process based on micro-waves allows the porous materials to be made in a matter of seconds, whereas a few years ago this took days. These structures are either made from polymer, metal or ceramic materials and form a kind of 'prison with cells' for the bacteria.
By changing the size of the pores in which the bacteria house, different levels of 'physiological stress' can be put onto them, which makes the bacteria change their behavior. Through this manipulation of 'nano-scale environmental stress', the bacteria can be controlled and told to perform specific tasks. The scientists say they have been able to multiply the efficiency of the microorganisms' biomass conversion work by a factor of 20 or 30 in this way.

One type of bacterium which was developed in a porous polymer is used outside of the biorefinery, in the fields, so to speak. It lets several kinds of biomass grow much quicker and allows it to grow on marginal and even dry land. This way, the quantity of biomass that will be used in the local biorefinery can be managed and predicted much better, and forms a constant feed:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Metal nano-blocks with pores with a diametre of 10 to 100 micrometres will be used as catalysts for the production of green specialty chemicals from the syngas and its residues. Porous ceramics with still different properties and functions are currently in development.

The syngas that is obtained in the last stage of the process can be broken down and its chemical elements separated: dihydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane and carbondioxide which form the basis of larger molecules like ammonia, ethanol and methanol. The conversion of this synthesis gas into usable products requires catalytic reactions and a scrubbing procedure, carried out at high temperatures.

Depending on current needs and local circumstances, the syngas can also be directly used either in a combustion engine or in fuel cells to produce electricity. And again, high temperatures are required here (in the case of fuel cells), which is why the researchers are focusing on metallic nano-catalysts for fuel cells that function under temperatures of up to 1600°C.

Entry ends here. /PREAD/
Cette information est un extrait du BE Royaume-Uni numéro 69 du 8/09/2006 rédigé par l'Ambassade de France au Royaume-Uni.

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European mobility week kicks off - focus on dangerous climate change

European citizens have become very aware of the global problems of energy security (with all the political ramifications this entails), dangerous climate change and global sustainable development. They show their awareness by actively participating in a myriad of pan-European initiatives, be it the "You control Climate Change" campaign, the "Sustainable Cities" initiative, or the European Mobility Week, which has just started.

From 16th to 22nd September 2006 European citizens, young and old, will have the opportunity to enjoy a full week of events dedicated to sustainable, soft, clean and green mobility in hundreds of participating cities across the Union. Cities in Japan, Ecuador and Thailand show their solidarity and join in. The objective is to facilitate widespread debate on the necessity for changes in our behaviour in relation to mobility and in particular the use of the good old dirty, inefficient private car. As usual, the Car Free Day will be the highlight of the whole Week.

A series of events, debates and campaigns are organised around themes such as the development of "greenways" (for non-motorised vehicles, e.g. reclaiming old railroads and turning them into bicycle paths), responsible car use and the urgent need for the adoption of clean vehicles, simply cycling, car pooling and car sharing, systems and steps to save on fuel, "give the car a break" activities, bicycle sharing projects for liveable cities, public transport and disability, the concept of congestion charges (with the so-called Stockholm Trials up for debate), and so on.

The central theme of the Mobility Week is dangerous climate change, probably the biggest threat and challenge the world is currently facing. For European citizens, the threat is ever more apparent, and the critical debate has moved all the way from academia past the public sphere and into the household. The "Disaster Years" as 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 are now called showed record heat waves in Central and Western Europe in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, record floods in Eastern and Central Europe last year and this year, record forest fires damaging a record number of hectares in 2004, 2005 and 2006 in Southern Europe, and record droughts this year in South-Eastern Europe. These disasters have had a unifying effect with European citizens sharing the feeling that 'the debate is over' and that drastic action must be taken:
:: :: :: :: :: ::
The European Mobility Week is a EU-Commission initiative. The reasons for the focus on dangerous climate change are easy to understand:

1. Coherence with European Policies: Climate change is currently one of the main topics of European environmental and energy policies, the review of the European Climate Change Programme is underway, the Thematic Strategy of the Urban Environment, to be published these days, puts a strong emphasis on transport and (hopefully) refers to climate change, the European climate change campaign coming up in 2006,...

2. Relevance: The year 2005 was named as "Year of Disasters" by the World Meteorological Organisation. Never before, national, regional and local levels were so aware of climate change and that they will have to act, each level according to its means. Also never before, climate change had such a presence/response in media, scientists now dare for the first time to affirm that what we are observing now is definitely due to mankind’s activities, ...

3. Need for action: Kyoto targets are recognised to be an important, but only a first step. Much more will have to be done and it is clear that more ambitious targets for the Post-Kyoto period have to be adopted (main outcome of Montreal UNFCCC Conference). All other policy levels have also admitted that current policies are by far not enough and that more stringent policies have to be developed. Especially for the local level, consultation with stakeholders and citizens (Local Agenda 21), European Mobility Week could be the occasion to take this up.

4. Fulfilment of Art.6 of the UNFCCC: In Article 6 of the United Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Parties committed themselves to undertake education, training and public awareness raising on climate change. European Mobility Week 2006 would be a perfect occasion for the Member States to contribute to the fulfilment of this article.

Enjoy the ride.

::European Environment Agency.
Local Governments for Sustainability.
Intelligent Energy Europe initiative, converts EU policy for smart energy use and more renewables into action on the ground, addressing today’s energy challenges and promoting business opportunities and new technologies.
Sustainable Energy Europe campaign, EU campaign to raise public awareness and change the landscape of energy.
:: The European Joint Research Centre's Institute for Environment and Sustainability
::International Association of Public Transport
::Transport website at the EU Directorate-General for Energy and Transport.
::Managenergy - European public awareness on energy agency
::CIVITAS - Cleaner and Better Transport in Cities in Europe
Energie-Cités: network of European local authorities which promotes energy efficiency, renewable energy, distributed generation and sustainable mobility.
::EU Transport Research and Transfer of Knowledge Centre - The Centre provides a library of significant findings underpinning policy developments in transport.
::ELTIS: European Local Transport Information Service - aims to support a practical transfer of knowledge and exchange of experience in the field of urban and regional transport in Europe and so help create a more sustainable living environment, one which provides greater accessibility and mobility to its inhabitants.
::The EMOTIONS web site contains practical examples of activities and campaigns to illustrate the emotional approach in promoting clean urban transport.

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