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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, October 15, 2006

U.S. scientist and army working on direct ethanol fuel cells

Not long ago we reported about German scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute who are working on the development of 'direct alcohol fuel cells' (DAFC/DEFC). Now Indiana University-Purdue University (IUPUI) in the U.S. receives US$1.5 million to collaborate with the U.S. Army on similar research.

IUPUI says the project could mean that cell phones, laptops, military vehicles and radios could one day run on electrical power from corn grown in the US. Andrew Hsu, associate dean for research and graduate programs in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI and a professor of mechanical engineering, says that the use of renewable energy in fuel cell technology will reduce U.S. reliance on fossil fuels and significantly enhance its energy security.

The joint project calls for the IUPUI Advanced Energy Research Laboratory, a part of the School of Engineering & Technology, and the Fuel Cell Program within the Army Research Laboratory's Sensors & Electronic Devices Directory at Ft. Detrick, Md., to develop fuel cells directly powered by ethanol, and reformers that can convert ethanol into hydrogen to power hydrogen fuel cells.

Currently almost all of the hydrogen used in the world is made from fossil fuels, Hsu says. The ethanol reformer proposed in this project promises to help to further our cause of creating a renewable hydrogen economy. Not only is ethanol renewable, it also is cleaner and safer than other fuels, making it attractive for both military and commercial applications:
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Fuel cells operating on renewables offer benefits to soldiers, farmers, scientists and all of us who want to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, said IUPUI Chancellor Charles R. Bantz. "This project is a terrific example of IUPUI's creative faculty doing research that translates into improving daily life."

A fuel cell, a device that converts chemicals into useable energy, is very similar to a battery. Unlike a battery that needs to be recharged or discharged, a fuel cell can work continuously as long as fuel is fed into it. An ethanol-powered fuel cell converts the chemical energy stored in ethanol to electrical energy directly without going through high temperature combustion.

The by-product of ethanol fuel cell reaction is water and carbon dioxide. The amount of carbon dioxide that an ethanol fuel cell emits balances the amount that the corn absorbed during its growth, so there is no net negative impact to the environment, Hsu said.

According to Hsu, there is a worldwide rush to develop fuel cell technology.

"Fuel cell technology can replace batteries used in the field by soldiers, with the advantage of low signature and quick fuel replacement with no charging time required. Backpack size fuel cells could replace larger diesel generator sets that are currently towed on a trailer," the professor said. "Power generated from fuel cells can also be used for robots and autonomous ground vehicles, future soldier systems, micro-air vehicles, and other army vehicles."

For commercial use, ethanol fuel cells could power cell phones, laptops and generators used in farming and construction.

The IUPUI team researchers will include Hsu and other faculty, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students. IUPUI undergraduate students currently funded by the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Institute in the School of Engineering & Technology and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program will also work in the project.

The research team will ask Indiana companies that can assist the development of the ethanol fuel cell technology to participate in the project, Hsu said. For example, currently the IUPUI-Army team is negotiating with TAWAS ICMS, a Noblesville, Ind., company specializing in the development, testing and applications of electrochemical systems for transportation and other uses.

Under a 21st Century Grant, IUPUI scientists previously developed research methods and computer software for the design of active materials for fuel cell applications, and is currently applying this technology in the development of new non-precious-metal catalysts with direct ethanol fuel cell use in mind, Hsu said.

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Large-scale bioenergy production from olive oil residues

Quicknote bioenergy feedstocks
Belgian firm TPF has launched [*dutch] a large bioenergy facility in Spain's southernmost province of Cordoba that will use waste biomass residues from the massive olive oil industry for large-scale production of bioenergy. The group uses waste olives, press and oil cakes for the generation of electricity and heat.

TPF has a €20 million stake in the investment via Econoler, a daughter company in Spain. Almost 80% of all of Spain's olive oil output comes from this region of Andalusia. Spain is the world's largest olive oil producer with an annual production of 1.4 million tons [FAOstat]. Olives have an oil content of around 20%, which means that after extraction a lot of waste biomass with a relatively high energy content remains in the form of press cake. This waste is now being used for energy.

The news is interesting because it opens prospects for the revival of the North African olive oil industry. Countries like Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia used to have a thriving oil industry, but with the onslaught of European producers, the sector has gone in decline. New revenue streams from bioenergy might change this picture and open chances for the development of a bioenergy industry in more arid regions like North Africa [entry ends here].
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