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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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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Asian biofuel trading to grow fast, as Indonesia goes ahead with bioenergy program

Despite criticism by NGOs from the West, Indonesia's massive biofuel development program (earlier post) will go ahead as planned, director of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry's research and development unit, Nenny Sri Utami has announced. The project is expected to turn the country into one of the biggest biofuel producers in the world, as it involves five million hectares of land set aside for growing tropical feedstocks. Indonesia's priority is to export biofuels to prosperous markets. Until recently, the obvious focus was on Europe, the single largest biofuel market. But more and more, Indonesia is looking East, towards rapidly growing economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Over the coming decades, it is precisely there that energy demand will increase sharply: the region is set to drive 75% of all the growth in the world's fuel demand by 2030. And according to Jeffrey Skeer of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), who chairs the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's (APEC) recently strengthened Biofuels Task Force (earlier post), it is therefor logical to expect biofuel trading in this market to grow along. Commercial imports by Japan, which have already commenced, will help the market to take off.

Unlike biofuels made from crops grown in temperate climates, green fuels made from tropical crops, such as sugarcane, sweet potatoes, palm oil, sweet sorghum and cassava, can compete with crude oil at US$50 a barrel, said Skeer at an industry conference in Tokyo:
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Biofuels are expected to be produced in larger volumes in several years from various crops, such as sugar cane and palm, in Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia at different harvest timings and costs, while corn is the main source of biofuel in the United States now.

"Cost differentials can mean big trade opportunities in the APEC region as biofuel markets grow over time," Skeer said.

Japan's role
Skeer pointed out that the start of the imports by Japan would provide a significant support for the biofuel trading market in Asia to take off. "Japan is pretty big. Imports will go slow but there is a good potential there," Skeer said on the sidelines of the conference.

Japan is seen as a potential big market of ethanol producers as it is the world's third-largest oil market and the only Asian country with a U.N carbon emission cap.

It also has ambitions to replace about a fifth of its auto fuels with biofuels or gas-to-liquid (GTL), but technically there is no commercial retail distribution of such fuel.

Japan's high dependence on imported food and the decline of its agricultural sector have also delayed the introduction of biofuel to its retail market.

The Japanese oil industry has this year opted to import ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE) from France ahead of a test retail distribution of bio-gasoline starting in April, citing a lack of sufficient facilities for direct ethanol blending and issues related to petroleum product sales tax.

Imports from Brazil, South East Asia
But the industry has said it would shift to imports of ethanol from such countries as key exporter Brazil, and refiners, led by top refiner Nippon Oil Corp., set up a joint venture to import ETBE and ethanol in January.

The global biofuel industry is quickly developing amid growing concerns over climate change as biofuels emit less greenhouse gases than conventional fossil fuels as well as because of high oil prices.

U.S. President George Bush's speech in January that the states would sharply boost use of biofuels to reduce its fossil fuel consumptions by the world's largest energy market might speed up the pace of the industry growth.

The Japanese oil industry has also said costs to produce and import ethanol or ETBE is more expensive now, but DOE's Skeer said biofuels can be competitive with current oill prices.

"At world crude oil prices above US$50 per barrel, biofuels from a wide variety of crops are cost-competitive with petrol and diesel as fuels for transport," he said.

International benchmark U.S. crude prices have fallen sharply from a record above US$78, but still holding around US$50-55 levels.


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