<body> -------------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home / Archive
Nature Blog Network

    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.

Creative Commons License

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cuba set to become major ethanol producer

In 1927, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on a sugar plantation in Birán, near Mayarí, in the modern-day province of Holguín. Like many in pre-war Cuba, Castro's father had become relatively wealthy by producing raw sugar, a five-century old industry on the island. Young Fidel grew up in the idyllic tranquility of a luxurious plantation estate. Three decades later, Castro the revolutionary rolled victoriously into Havana and ousted the Batista regime. No doubt, the communists celebrated their victory in Havana over a glass of Cuba Libre...

In February 1960, a year after taking power, Cuba signed an agreement to buy oil from the USSR. When the US-owned refineries in Cuba refused to process the oil, they were expropriated, and the United States broke off diplomatic relations with the Castro government soon afterward, a situation that remains until today. To the concern of the Eisenhower administration, Cuba began to establish ever closer ties with the Soviet Union. A variety of pacts were signed between Castro and Premier Nikita Khrushchev, allowing Cuba to receive large amounts of economic and military aid from them.

In June 1960, Eisenhower touched Cuba's pride: he reduced the island's sugar import quota by 7,000,000 tons, to the fury of Castro and his informal minister of economic affairs, Che Guevara. In response, Cuba nationalized some $850 million worth of US property and businesses. The revolutionary government grabbed control of the nation by nationalizing industry, expropriating property, collectivizing agriculture, and enacting policies which would benefit the population.

Throughout the following decades, Cuba's economic dependence on the USSR deepened. Industrial plans had failed to make the nation more self-reliant. In the end, the tropical communist island state had not much to offer in return for Soviet aid... except for raw sugar. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba's sugar cane industry went into steep decline, and so did its access to cheap Russian oil. Cuba once was the world's largest sugar exporter but the highly developed sector has fallen upon hard times as a result of mismanagement. Since 2003 it has dismantled 71 out of its 156 sugar factories. A nation that once exported 10 million tons of sugar per year is projecting that only 1.5 million tons will be produced in 2006, of which a meager 1 million tons will be exported.

Today, the man who was born on a sugar cane plantation nearly eight decades ago, is ailing himself. But surprisingly, Cuba's sugar industry will soon be revived as the island state transforms itself into a major ethanol producer:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Castro regime has long been aware of the decreasing role to be played by fossil fuels and the importance of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, Havana has turned its attention to developing alternative energy sources by expanding investment opportunities for foreigners in the island’s nascent ethanol industry. After being marginalized in worldwide capitalist markets for the past half century, Cuba has become more conscious of environmental sustainability of energy sources. As a result, the government is now starting to promote alternative energy resources, such as sugar ethanol – an alcohol-based substance made from fermenting and distilling sugarcane.

With a sugar industry that is more than five centuries old, Cuba can offer investment opportunities in its once highly developed sector, which has fallen upon hard times as a result of mismanagement. Cuba was once the world’s largest raw sugar exporter, but since 2003 it has dismantled 71 out of its 156 sugar factories. A nation that once exported 10 million tons of sugar per year is projecting that only 1.5 million tons will be produced in 2006, of which a meager 1 million tons will be exported. Despite the recent dramatic down-scaling of the Cuban sugar industry, the Jamaican Gleaner reported that high sugar prices in the world market could lead to a revenues bonanza for Cuba. Not surprisingly, this has led to the government’s decision to bolster the industry. Luis Galvez of the Cuban Research Institute for Sugar Cane Derivatives says Cuba has 17 distilleries with the combined potential of producing up to 180 million liters of ethanol annually.

Sugar still remains one of Cuba’s primary exports amongst other growing industries such as medical supplies. Given the relative strengths that Cuba’s sugar industry already possesses, ethanol remains perhaps the most logical solution to the government’s search for energy alternatives. Use of the product as an energy source is increasing around the world, since it reduces the per gallon cost of gasoline in addition to the consumption level of fossil fuels. The growing market for ethanol emerged in the 1990s with the Brazilian initiative to manufacture more than five million ethanol-compatible automobiles. Other nations, such as Canada, the U.S., China, Australia, Colombia, Peru and Thailand, are mixing gas with ten percent ethanol to fuel. Meanwhile, Paraguay, India, Sweden, South Africa and Japan have mixed gasoline with lesser percentages of alcohol. Considering unstable oil prices and pressure from environmental groups to curb greenhouse emissions, ethanol production will almost certainly emerge as a prosperous industry, putting Cuba in a front-seat position to reap huge profits in the future. This is mainly due to the fact that the cost of production for sugar-based ethanol in Cuba is less than what it will be for the U.S., whose ethanol industry will almost entirely be dependent on more expensive corn ethanol.

At present, Cuba is beginning to increase its investment in the ethanol industry and Havana may finally see some significant returns after spending over $1 billion on oil and gas production efforts since 1991. While other developing countries are beginning to tap into Cuban energy resources to satisfy their own economies, Cuba is more and more venturing out into the capitalist-dominated, fast-growing alternative energy fields to develop new possibilities for its perennially straightened economy.

More information:
Council on Hemispheric Affairs: Cuban Oil and Ethanol Could Prosper in Havana’s Hunt for Energy Supplies - November 17th, 2006

Article continues