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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, October 28, 2006

Wood stoves used in developing world are big culprits in climate change

More than two billion people on this planet rely on raw biomass (firewood, crop residues, dung) for cooking and heating. Scientists have now found that stoves fuelled by this kind of biomass are contributing significantly more to climate change than expected. This makes the case for the introduction of modern bioenergy (biogas, biobriquettes, green gelfuel) all the stronger. Moreover, modern household biofuels also reduce indoor smoke pollution, a real killer in the kitchen that claims up to 1.6 million children and women's lives each year.

Researchers have found that smoke produced by these stoves, which are traditionally used for cooking and heating in developing countries, contains twice as many soot particles as laboratory experiments had previously indicated. When released into the atmosphere, the black, noxious particles — which are darker than those produced by grassland or forest fires — absorb light and increase atmospheric temperatures.

"They can absorb energy and keep it in the Earth's system when it would otherwise escape," says lead author Tami Bond of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, US. Lack of knowledge about the characteristics and quantities of emissions from wood stoves is a major contributor to uncertainties in global emission estimates for particulate material.

Bond and colleagues measured emissions from cooking stoves in Honduras using a portable monitoring system. In a previous study Bond had established that burning firewood produces 800,000 metric tons of soot worldwide a year:
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By comparison, diesel vehicles generate about 890,000 metric tons of soot a year. Both sources together contribute 10 per cent of the soot emitted annually into the atmosphere.

Distributing well-designed stoves with chimneys and training people in their use "may be an effective method of mitigating global climate change, and can improve the health of the users", says Christopher Roden, also of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and one of the study's authors.

However, the most effective way to reduce climate-warming particles, says Bond, would be replacing the wood with cleaner fuels. "These include liquefied petroleum gas, but also alternatives like biogas, managed charcoal and processed briquettes."

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua are the main consumers of wood in Latin America, according to the World Conservation Union. In Honduras, more than 80 per cent of families cook over open wood fires.

The authors estimate that around 400 million wood stoves are used daily by more than 2 billion people worldwide. The study was published online last month (27 September) in Environmental Science & Technology.

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Abengoa Bioenergy invests in Dyadic's enzyme R&D

Abengoa is the world's second largest bioenergy producer, with operations in Europe and Latin America. Its subsidiary Abengoa Bioenergy R&D (ABRD) has now entered a three-year research and development agreement and a stock purchase agreement worth US$10 million with Dyadic International, a biotechnology company that develops enzymes for the production of cellulosic ethanol [*.pdf].

Dyadic will use the proceeds from this private sale to fund its R&D obligations under the R&D agreement, which has as its objective the development of a cost-effective enzyme production system for commercial application in Abengoa Bioenergy’s bioethanol (cellulosic ethanol) production process. The R&D agreement, which does not become effective until the private sale closes, calls upon Dyadic to use its proprietary technologies to develop one or more enzyme mixture manufacturing systems customized to ABRD’s proprietary biomass substrates.

The viability of ligno-cellulosic or 'second generation' ethanol, which is based on breaking down cellulose via a biochemical (enzymatic) process that releases the sugars contained in it, depends on the efficiency and costs of the enzymes used. If the price of enzymes can be brought down (or efficiency considerably increased), then it will be possible to manufacture ethanol from a much broader range of biomass streams (such as agricultural residues, corn stover, stems, grasses, and so on.)

Dyadic's main focus for the development of a potent enzyme is based on patented strains of the fungal microorganism Chrysosporium lucknowense (picture).

The R&D agreement contemplates that Dyadic will perform both foundational research of general application to the cellulosic ethanol field and specific applications research for the achievement of the goals of ABRD’s program. Under the terms of the R&D agreement, if Dyadic successfully develops one or more enzyme manufacturing systems for Abengoa Bioenergy, Dyadic may be entitled to receive license fees, technology transfer fees and royalties on ethanol sales. Other financial terms were not disclosed:
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“Abengoa Bioenergy is considered to be the second largest ethanol producer in the world and a leader in the fields of both corn-derived and cellulose-derived ethanol production. We are extremely pleased to partner with Abengoa Bioenergy to leverage Dyadic’s patented C1 platform enzyme technology to enable commercial development of biomass derived ethanol,” said Glenn E. Nedwin, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer for Dyadic.

“We recognized that Dyadic’s enzyme technology, especially in the field of cellulosic ethanol, is state-of-the-art,” said Gerson Santos-Leon, R&D Director of Abengoa Bioenergy. “Abengoa Bioenergy is looking forward to working with Dyadic in the development of large-scale enzyme production systems and manufacturing processes for use in the production of abundant low cost fermentable sugars from biomass, with initial focus on cellulosic ethanol production.”

“We are very excited to enter into this partnership with Abengoa Bioenergy, a recognized leader in the field of cellulosic ethanol, and are also pleased to welcome ABRD as a strategic investor, research collaborator and Dyadic shareholder,” commented Dyadic’s President and CEO, Mark Emalfarb. “Abengoa Bioenergy is a visionary company and an important first partner for Dyadic for its Biorefineries Business. Additional partners will stand to benefit not only from access to Dyadic’s technologies specific to their area of interest but also from the core technology development program that is fundamental to efficient production of ethanol, other biofuels, polymers and other chemicals from biomass, thereby reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

Javier Salgado, Abengoa Bioenergy´s President & CEO, added: “Dyadic is recognized as a leader in innovation and technology in the enzymes production field. This investment and the R&D collaboration with Dyadic represent a key building block in the Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass Program, particularly in the area of specialized enzymes.”

Pursuant to the parties’ purchase agreement, the Company has agreed to file a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission covering the resale of the shares issued at closing, as well as the additional shares, if any, issuable after the closing.

The securities offered in the private sale were not registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "Act") or any state securities laws, and may not be offered or sold in the United States absent registration, or an applicable exemption from registration, under the Act and applicable state securities laws.

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Philippines and China sign ethanol cooperation agreements

Quicknote South-South cooperation
A bilateral investment and trade meeting held between the Philippine and Chinese chambers of commerce resulted in the island state attracting several ethanol investments from its giant neighbor. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is touring China and actively tries to attract foreign investments in the sector. After months of vivid debates, the Philippines recently finalised its biofuels legislation (earlier post).

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the Philippines and China will sign two memoranda of understanding and a memorandum of agreement on the setting up of three ethanol fuel plants in the country, which will involve the development of thousands of hectares of land for sugar cane. Earlier research indicated that the island state has considerable potential to develop a sugar cane based bioenergy industry large enough to export fuels (earlier post).

The MOUs cover the construction of two ethanol plants in Negros Island in the central Philippines (maximum output capacity of respectively 120,000 and 150,000 liters per day) will be entered into by the Philippine government and the China Machines Engineering Corp. Some 10,000 to 12,000 hectares of land will be developed for the projects. Meanwhile, the MOA seeks to construct a 150,000-liter a day ethanol plant in Zamboanga del Norte province in the south, Yap said.

The MOU's on ethanol investments and cooperation are part of a larger package consisting of 10 agreements, covering a range of sectors, from mining, tourism and fisheries to culture and banking. Between 2001 and 2005, Philippine trade with China grew at an annual rate of 41.9 percent.

The Philippino-Chinese agreements signal a continued drive towards greater South-South exchanges in the bioenergy sector (see our Overview of biofuel cooperation agreements in the Global South) [entry ends here].
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