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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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Monday, October 09, 2006

High representative: biogas can replace all of Germany's natural gas imports from Russia

Fascinating news from Germany: the co-founder of the world's largest biogas firm, Schmack Biogas AG, says that within a few decades the locally produced green gas can replace all of Germany's natural gas imports from Russia, Europe's main supplier. Ulrich Schmack does not say this gratuitously: the successful entrepreneur does so in his position as High Representative for Renewable Energies to the Second Energy Top being held in the coming days by the country's Chancellory in Berlin.

This is very important news to us, because we are staunch advocates of biogas as a renewable, climate-friendly fuel, especially for the developing world. Of all (transport and stationary) fuels, biogas has the lowest CO2 footprint (earlier post). When a major industrial power like Germany heeds Schmack's call, the technology will be boosted and eventually find more acceptance all over the world (and especially so in rapidly emerging countries like China and India, where Germany's engineering tradition as well as its renewable energy efforts are seen as world leading).

Schmack assesses Germany's long-term energy options and starts by saying that the country's decision to phase out nuclear energy stands firm: "The decision is not up for debate." Nuclear energy, the representative adds, is not a renewable or clean energy source anyways. The supply of uranium is already problematic and the long-term supply outlook for high-grade nuclear fuel is not very encouraging. Biogas, Schmack says, grows each year, in a clean way, and does not suffer from supply constraints.

The question is whether biogas can replace a large enough amount of energy in order to counter the nuclear lobby's efforts of reopening the debate about the phase-out: "At the end of 2005, Germany produced 10.5% of all its energy from renewable resources. Each year, the share increases by 2 to 3%. The math is simple: by 2030 and at this pace, green energy will have replaced a huge amount of fossil energy."

Asked whether renewables like biogas aren't too costly to produce, Schmack urges analysts to look at the total costs and to put a value on such issues as geopolitical uncertainties stemming from energy dependence. Moreover, Schmack insists that since biogas is produced locally, by local farmers and entrepreneurs, the state receives taxes from those involved, which are kept inside the country and contribute to its economy.

Ulrich Schmack has a vision, based on sound data and realistic projections, even though many will be surprised to hear it: "In 2030 Germany will produce 40 billion cubic metres (1.4 trillion cubic feet) of biogas per year. By that time we don't need any gas from Russia any longer. The billions of Euros that flow out of the country now to Saudi Arabia and Russia, stay here and will benefit our economy." "Security of supply and buffers against price fluctuations are guaranteed", Schmack adds.

An often recurring 'moral' problem remains, though: is it morally acceptable to use land to grow crops for energy when world hunger is a persistent problem? Schmack: "Man does not live from bread alone, he needs heat and energy too. What's more, people all over the world nowadays spend more of their disposable incomes on energy that on food. There are clear reasons for this". Moreover, for more than 5 decades, European countries have set-aside millions of hectares of land, and even paid farmers not use that land! And 'historically speaking, not long ago we used to grow vast hectarages of oat - the fuel for the horses that drove both agriculture and urban transport":
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In this sense, bioenergy and biofuels mean a return to the energy paradigm of earlier times. The alternative is a global climate catastrophe that will have much more damaging effects on the poor, whose food security will be threatened even more.

The energy top in Berlin will thoroughly investigate the real efficiency of different bioenergy systems and analyse projections of efficiency increases. Schmack says this is a routine job, and points to the fact that he will push for more investments in highly efficient combined-heat-and-power (CHP) systems: "We have to get more out of our energy sources." In order to achieve this, the representative adds, decentralisation and localisation is of key importance. The integration of smaller energy systems based on biomass, wind and geothermal, in urban networks must get priority.

Schmack is confident that Germany's Energy Minister, Michael Glos, who recently showed some renewed interest for nuclear, will react positively to his vision and data about the potential of biogas. The reason for his optimism: recently Schmack Biogas AG opened a plant Prichsenstadt which powers the milling company of one of Glos's sons. Present at the opening were Germany's Economy Minister and... father Glos. And what struck Schmack most is that both, whispering like conspirators, "have literally confessed that biomass is our future."

More information:

Mittelbayerische Zeitung: Biogas könnte Gas aus Russland ersetzen - Ulrich Schmack setzt sich heute beim Gipfel im Kanzleramt für erneuerbare Energien ein - Oct. 9, 2006

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World's largest iron producer wants biofuels for its operations in Guinea

The world's leading iron producer is very concerned about the long-term outlook of the energy costs of its operations. Brazilian mining giant and metals producer Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) therefor wants to help countries where it is investing make the transition to biofuels and bioenergy [*french].

The steps involved in the production of ferrous and nonferrous metals are highly energy intensive. It is therefor crucial for metal mining and production companies to ensure stable and secure energy supplies, and if possible at low costs. CVRD is involved in ore mining, pellet production, manganese ore mining, and ferroalloy production, as well as in the production of nonferrous minerals, such as kaolin, potash, copper, and gold. The company’s aluminum-related operations include bauxite mining, alumina refining, and aluminum metal smelting. In addition, it provides logistics services, including railroad, coastal shipping, and port handling operations, as well as general cargo, bulk terminal storage, and ship loading services that are integrated with its mining operations.

CVDR has extensive experience with biomass as a fuel for iron ore production. More specifically, it relies on eucalyptus wood for its smelters in Brazil. This experience and a careful analysis of longterm energy supply and price trends has led the company to launch a bioenergy and biofuels program in Guinea. It wants to assist the government of the African country, where it holds large mining rights on iron and bauxite, to build a robust energy economy and infrastructure based on biodiesel, ethanol and solid biofuels:

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The small African state of Guinea does not produce any oil or natural gas itself and therefor understands the importance of fossil fuel dependence. It wants to overcome this dependence by relying on locally produced green fuels. Guinea's soils and climate are diverse, with in the South a subtropical humid zone where oil palm and sugar cane can be cultivated, whereas in the more central zone cassava is the most suitable energy crop. Still more to the north, in Guinea's arid Sahelian zone, both jatropha and groundnut can be grown.

The country of 10 million is relatively prosperous compared to its neighbors, and it was spared the deadly civil wars which raged in neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Some 80% of Guinea's population lives from agriculture, with 40% of all Guineans living below the poverty line.

Investments in a bioenergy industry coupled to the mining and ferro-industry promises to bring a vast number of jobs.

No concrete news about the actual projects and investments has been released, but we will certainly follow up on this announcement. More and more companies are looking at potential synergies between bioenergy and mining operations. Especially in African countries with a young mining industry, reliance on biofuels becomes interesting because fossil fuel infrastructures are often absent, and rising energy prices and the instability of supplies strengthen the case for green energy as an integrated part of this heavy industry.

More information:
L'Aurore (Conakry): Guinée: CVRD, la brésilienne veut des Biocarburants pour la Guinée (via AllAfrica).

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Climate change may devastate Asian economies, create millions of environmental refugees

Because of their reduced CO2 emissions, biofuels and bioenergy can play a crucial role in fighting climate change. The urgency of combating this biggest of all threats is confirmed once again by yet another scientific report which shows the potentially enormous economic and social damages caused by climate change in the near future across Asia and the Pacific.

The picture looks grim: millions of people could become homeless in the Asia-Pacific region by 2030 due to rising sea levels, with Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, China and Pacific islands most at risk, says Australia's top scientific body. The spread of tropical diseases, collapsing economies and an increase in the occurence of devastating extreme weather events would also become a reality.

Sea level rises
The climate change report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found global warming in the Asia Pacific region could cause sea levels to rise by up to 16 cm (six inches) by 2030 and up to 50 cm (19 inches) by 2070. Rising temperatures will also result in increased rainfall during the summer monsoon season in Asia and could cause more intense tropical storms, inundating low-lying coastal villages.

"The coastlines of Asia-Pacific nations are generally highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly sea-level rise caused by rising global temperatures," said the CSIRO report released on Monday. "Vast areas of the Asia-Pacific are low lying, particularly the small-island states, as well as the large river deltas found in India and Bangladesh, Southeast Asia and China."

Sea level rise between 30 to 50 cm (11 to 19 inches) would affect more than 100,000 km (62,140 miles) of coast, particularly China's Pearl Delta and Bangladesh's delta, said the report. "As sea level rise exceeds half a metre, the area affected in the Asia-Pacific region rises to over half a million square kilometres, affecting hundreds of millions of people," it said. "Large areas of Bangladesh, India, Vietnam are inundated and Kiribati, Fiji and the Maldives are reduced to just a small fraction of their current land area."

Disease, collapsing economies, environmental refugees

The report also said rising sea levels and increased rainfall would spread infectious diseases in the region, leaving millions more at risk of dengue fever and malaria. It said local and regional economies would be hard hit by chronic food and water insecurity:
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As an example the report shows that Sri Lanka's GDP could fall by 2.4 percent with less than a two degree Celsius warming. The report also warned of environmental refugees fleeing their flooded homelands, citing growing migration from some South Pacific island states already suffering rising sea levels.

Some 17,000 islanders applied for New Zealand residence in the last two years, compared with 4,000 in 2003, it said. The low-lying South Pacfic island nation of Micronesia has experienced an annual sea level rise of 21.4 mm since 2001.

The report, commissioned by Australian aid agencies, prompted calls for Canberra to do more to combat climate change and to be more open to environmental refugees.

Kyoto and biofuels now
Australia has not signed the Kyoto Protocol to cut greenhouse gases, which cause global warming, and has rejected requests from Pacific islands to take environmental refugees. World Vision Australia chief, Reverend Tim Costello, called on Australia to review immigration programmes to consider people displaced by rising sea levels.

"This is enlightened self-interest, because there are going to be so many environmental refugees knocking on our door, flooding here with the sea levels rise as predicted and...the failure of economics and crops because of the rain changes in so many of these countries," Costello told local radio.

More information:

Reuters: Rising seas could leave millions homeless in Asia - Oct. 9, 2006

International Herald Tribune: Climate change may devastate Asian economies, increase disease risk, researchers say - Oct. 9, 2006

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Industrial steam from biomass: green, efficient and cheap

Many industries think the use of biomass as a substitute for fossil fuels makes no economic sense yet. For the time being, bioenergy is too expensive and not enough mechanisms to reward its CO2 neutrality are in place, or so they think. Nothing is further from the truth. Depending on local circumstances and the availability of feedstock, many forms of bioenergy - from biogas in agro-industry to co-firing of biomass for the production of green steel - definitely contribute to lowering direct production costs or secondary costs such as those derived from waste management. When the system of carbon trading as it exists in Europe today, becomes generalized, the economic arguments in favor of biomass and biofuels become even stronger.

An example of such a successful use of green energy in a competitive and mature industry comes from the Kibbutz Galam factory in Israel. The factory recently opened a facility (picture) to generate steam for industrial use fuelled by burning a solid biofuel consisting of wood chips from tree trimmings. And contrary to common perception, the environmentally-friendly plant delivers energy that is 25 percent cheaper than its polluting counterparts.

The facility, founded by GNRY Ltd. at a cost of USD 7 million, is the first of its kind in Israel. The new, environmentally friendly facility is replacing a system of steam boilers that operated on fossil fuels, which emit carbon monoxide and greenhouse gases. Municipalities and forests in Israel generate excess tree trimmings that, up until now, have had no use and constituted an unsolved problem of biological waste:

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The facility in Galam - which is expected to use 25,000 tons of woodchips per year – serves as a breakthrough solution to the problem with additional significant environmental ramifications.

During the facility's inauguration ceremony, Minister of Environmental Protection Gideon Ezra said that "the state of Israel has far to go to reach a progressive policy on recycling. This facility constitutes a shining example of 'green business' and I call on other entrepreneurs to take part in 'green initiatives', for all of our sakes."

More contracts anticipated
GRNY Ltd., a company specializing in green energy projects, built the facility using the BOT method (build, operate, transfer). The facility was manufactured in the US by Hurest Boilers Ltd. and assembled in Israel by a local team trained by the American company.

The facility was built to meet rigorous environmental standards, including regulations by Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection.

According to GNRY CEO Dan Schneid, in upcoming months, the company is anticipated to sign contracts for two more such facilities in northern and central Israel.

GNRY has been active in engineering projects for five years, but only began dealing with green energy projects a year and a half ago.

At that time, it received an exclusive permit from the American manufacturer of vats in Israel and central Europe, which deals with a variety of energy-related products, including those running on gas, crude oil and, of course, biomass.

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