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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, November 19, 2006

German biogas association: green gas can replace 50 percent of Germany's Russian gas imports

Quicknote bioenergy potential
Earlier we reported about the contro- versial remark made by an energy advisor to the German government who said that biogas produced from dedicated energy crops can replace all of Germany's natural gas imports from Russia by 2030. No doubt, the statement must be placed within the context of the recent energy negotiations between the EU and Russia, which were dominated by questions about long term energy security and rising doubts about Russia's commitment to engage in an equitable relationship with the EU (earlier post).

The advisor in question, Ulrich Schmack, is the co-founder of the world's largest biogas plant manufacturer and operator, Schmack Biogas AG. This publicly traded company has meanwhile put its money where its mouth is, and has started feeding highly purified biogas from biomass crops into the national natural gas grid. Unlike the more than 2300 medium-scale biogas plants in Germany that are already delivering electricity locally to farmers and small towns, Schmack's approach is that of an industrial-scale energy provider. In order to scale-up and to get a stake in the distribution sector, the company recently created a joint-venture with Erdgas Südbayern Wärme GmbH, a natural gas energy company that delivers electricity and heat to households.

Schmack's remark that dedicated biomass crops can produce over 40 billion cubic meters (1.4 trillion cubic feet) of biogas per year in 2030, was nuanced by the German Biogas Association (Fachverband Biogas), which made a statement at the closing of BioEnergy Europe 2006, a major industry event held in Hannover last week. The Association said that in 2006, investments in Germany's biogas sector will surpass 1 billion euros. This makes it the fastest growing renewable energy sector in the country. Some 10,000 people have found employment in this sector (planning, construction, manufacture and operation of biogas plants; producing feedstocks). By the end of the year, Germany will have some 3,500 medium-scale plants online. In 2006, some five billion KWh of electricity will be generated from biogas in the country, and the amount will double once again in the first half of next year. The Association concludes that at this pace and with current technologies, the industry will tap a potential that can replace half of all Russian gas imports 'in the near future' [entry ends here].
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Engineers developing biomass-fired micro-CHP system for homes

A new project at Nottingham University's School of the Built Environment aims to create the first small-scale biomass-fired combined heat and power (CHP) system, which is said to be ideal for use on farms and in other large domestic buildings. CHP systems are much more efficient (often 85% overall) than large-scale utility separate heat and power generation, but they have to be located close to thermal end users (domestic or industrial, integrated into district heating systems). They are ideal in a decentralised energy strategy, but require a strong logistical chain for distributing the biomass (pellets, chips, briquettes).

Even though micro-CHP systems are not commercially available, several companies are working on developing them. The UK's Carbon Trust is trying to speed up the introduction of the systems on the domestic and SME market. It is currently carrying out an assessment of the performance of this new equipment and will be providing a database of information from which to develop policies. It is actively working on a field trial and contracted 5 technology suppliers who have the opportunity to have their equipment tested in a range of 'live' customer applications.

Meanwhile, the School of the Built Environment's project aims to help prove the viability of small-scale CHP generation, according to Professor Saffa Riffat, one of the project's leaders and an expert in sustainable energy technologies and thermal engineering.

'At the moment there are a number of large-scale 100-200kW CHP generators but there are no domestic-sized ones,' said Riffat. 'This will be the first biomass-powered CHP on a small scale.'

The research is being developed at the school's Institute of Sustainable Energy. The first stage of the 18-month micro-CHP project, which began this month, is to look at ways of miniaturising the CHP components to enable smaller-scale biomass devices to be built. The project aims to develop a system that only produces up to 10kW, which is more than enough power for domestic use, according to Riffat.

Most CHP systems on the market are powered using fossil fuels, usually gas and oil, which does not sit well with the institute's sustainable energy ambitions. Also, most existing biomass generators are used only to produce electricity rather than as a combined CHP unit. The research aims to find a way of creating heat and power using a biomass-powered furnace. The institute plans to develop the steam Rankine turbine cycle, which is already the state of the art in biomass-powered energy production technology:
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The Rankine cycle uses a liquid that is pumped at a high pressure into a boiler, where it is heated until it becomes a vapour. This vapour is then expanded through a turbine, which provides electricity. Once it leaves the turbine it is quickly condensed back into a liquid then re-enters the pump so it can be re-pressurised and the cycle starts again.

This form of steam-driven Rankine power generation, although useful in large-scale energy production, is of less use in low-power systems because of its inherent low efficiency in energy generation and high capital costs. To make a system that only generates about 10kW, the efficiency would have to be greatly improved. To also provide heat generation as part of the same system Riffat and his team have modified the traditional cycle by using a refrigerant to power the turbine.

'We will have a biomass- powered furnace with a heat exchanger inside filled with a liquid refrigerant such as CO2 or pentane,' said Riffat. 'As a high-pressure vapour it will expand through a turbine at 500-600Cº and the turbine will produce electricity.' Up to this point, the Rankine Cycle remains unchanged.

However the use of the refrigerant adds a new element to the cycle: the production of heat. 'When the refrigerant is condensed and it moves back from vapour to liquid it gives up heat, which can then be utilised,' said Riffat.

The team has produced a miniature 2kW turbine and preliminary tests have revealed this modified design is more efficient and reliable than previous conventional systems. The next step is to couple one of these small turbines with a biomass boiler. Riffat hinted the research may encompass other innovations, including the elimination of the pumps in the cycle, that would make the system even more efficient in the future.

He said there is a large and growing market for a system that could reuse household waste and other biomass materials to produce small-scale localised power and heat generation, particularly in farms. 'If you are using large-scale CHP you have to get a group of houses together where everybody wants to be involved, which isn't always easy,' he said.

The team aims to commercialise the system soon although it does not yet have any industrial partners. The first prototype could be ready in six months, claimed Riffat.

More information:

GODEFROY,J., BOUKHANOUF,R. and RIFFAT,S., 2007. Design and mathematical modelling of small-scale CHP and cooling system. Applied Thermal Engineering, 27(1), 68-77.

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