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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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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Biogas maize holds large potential in Europe: report

According to research by the 'Institut für Lebensmittel- und Ressourcenökonomik' (Institute for Food and Resource Economics, ILR) at the University of Bonn, Germany, maize destined for the production of biogas holds great potential [*German] in Europe.

Maize ('corn' in the US) is a feedstock that can be used for the production of ethanol and biogas. But the conversion into a liquid fuel is energy inefficient compared to anaerobically fermenting it into biomethane. Per hectare, corn yields an average of 20 Gigajoules (45Gj max.) per year if converted into ethanol; when the crop is converted into biogas, it yields an average of 55 Gj (125Gj max.), some two to three times more useable energy (earlier post).

Biogas has the advantage that it can be used both as an automotive fuel (in CNG vehicles) and as an energy source for stationary applications (such as in biogas fuel cells or natural gas power plants). After cleaning the biomethane, it can be fed into the natural gas grid (earlier post). In Europe, energy maize is being bred as a dedicated crop for biogas production, with a 'super' variant that yields a much larger amount of easily methanisable biomass than ordinary variants (earlier post).

On the basis of these developments and advantages, IFRE scientist Thomas Breuer ran a large series of simulations and predicts that Germany's agriculture will be dominated by energy maize in the near future. A large-scale biogas industry that can compete with natural gas is feasible. For some regions, like the Landkreis Borken, 50% of the entire agricultural hectarage will be covered with the dedicated biogas maize. A similar situation will be found in the region of Neumünster, Schleswig Holstein:
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But Breuer says that, even though the technical potential for biogas looks very promising, government policies, both at the national as well as at the EU level are decisive. Tax incentives, subsidies, policies that reward biogas producers who feed green methane or electricity derived from it to the grid, are all needed for the permanent establishment of a large-scale biogas industry that can compete with natural gas.

Breuer observes that biogas is now capable of delivering energy under 'real economic parametres'. Rising fossil fuel demand from India and China put a never-ending pressure on oil and gas prices, making longterm investments in biogas a realistic alternative. Add the EU-policies on energy security and climate change, and the framework is set: "the EU intervenes very strongly now in the issue of energy independence and has given the go-ahead to invest in biomass and bioenergy; this creates a politically secure investment climate for biogas."

The projected increase in energy maize hectarages will especially impact grain maize (used for the livestock feed industry) and other grain crop production. "Maize can now be grown much more cheaply and more easily than before by farmers", says Breuer. No longer a 'specialist crop', the biogas opportunity will lead to considerable increases in production efficiency and yields for maize, the scientist thinks. Farmers who invest in energy maize are expected to invest more (of their higher profits) in knowledge and expertise than maize growers who supply the livestock feed market, boosting their competitive advantage.


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