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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, February 24, 2007

Biofuels in Ivory Coast: U.S. company plans to invest US$ 130mn

Until recently, the former French colony of Côte d'Ivoire was West-Africa's pride. For an African country Ivory Coast was politically stable, had a strong economy based on a robust agricultural sector, and an excellent infrastructure. Its capital, Abidjan, was seen as the 'Paris of the tropics' and, being West-Africa's largest port, reached levels of prosperity seen nowhere else on the continent. But then, in 2002, a civil war broke out and split the country in two, with rebel groups taking the North, and the government of Laurent Gbagbo controlling the capital and the South. The conflict is complex: ethnic strife mixed with a resource war in which local, regional and multinational interests are at stake. Despite French and UN interference, the situation in the 17 million strong nation remains tense today.

The civil war has had an immediate effect on agriculture - which employs 70% of the population - and the economy in general. Ivory Coast is the world's largest cacao exporter, the third largest coffee exporter, and a major palm oil and cotton producer. These sectors are mainly managed by small to medium enterprises that employ millions. But many of these companies were in the hands of French expatriates, who left the country en masse as the conflict broke out. Only large multinationals - who can absorb shocks and risks far more easily - remained.

Ivorian farmers do have a strong tradition of organising highly effective social movements, unions and civil society organisations. This capacity has led them to root out some of the most exploitative practises - such as child labor and plantation slavery - , even though much remains to be done. It has also allowed them to survive the conflict surprisingly well.

In theory, the country's agricultural sector could be revived fairly rapidly, as the excellent Ivorian infrastructure (road, rail and deep-water port) and the agricultural service sector has remained intact. The country has a large biofuels production potential, and some have seen this new global market as an opportunity to replicate Ivory Coast's successes with cacao, coffee and cotton. Given strong dependence on these agricultural products, diversifying into biofuels is seen an important way to mitigate the risks inherent in producing basic commodities for a volatile world market.

According to local newspapers, a newly established U.S. company, 21st Century Energy, specialised in converting underutilized agricultural resources into valuable products, now wants to invest up to €99/US$130 million over five years into the bioenergy sector. It plans to establish a 10,000 MT/day ethanol production facility that will use sugarcane, maize and sweet sorghum as primary feedstocks. Possibly a biodiesel production initiative will follow, that would rely on abundant but underutilized cotton seed and noix de cajou (cashew) residues. The ethanol plant would be the first industrial scale facility, and the largest in West-Africa.

The project is expected to bring 10,000 jobs, increased farmers incomes, and a series of 'social works' (a school, a hospital and a market), as well as an educational initiative and an extension service to reach local farmers:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

21st Century Energy's CEO, M. David Meyers, headed a delegation to Ivory Coast to meet with Sangafowa Coulibaly, chief of the cabinet of the Ministry of Agriculture, with the commercial attaché to the Ivorian embassy in Washington and with a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For Meyers, the visit was aimed at evaluating the investment climate and the interest of the Ivorian authorities in the project, to check the land planned to be used for the establishment of plantations and the greenfield for the ethanl plant. Meyers also visited the deep water port of Abidjan and received a tour of logistical infrastructures.

The Ivorian government assured that it is "fully backing the development of renewables in the country. On the one hand to cut Ivory Coast's dependence on volatile oil, and on the other hand to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, the Ministry of Energy, in co-operation with the Ministry of Agriculture, gas created a national strategic policy framework for biofuels."

According to the Minister of Planning and Development, Paul Antoine Bohoun Bouabré, Ivory Coast has a large and skilled workforce able to make the project work, without the need to rely on foreign workers.

Ivory Coast's sugarcane sector is currently dominated by large companies working on an estate level, whereas its maize sector is dominated by smallholders who produce mainly for the local market.

21st Century Energy is expected to commence its activities in the country before the end of the year.

More information:
Fraternité Matin (Abidjan), via AllAfrica: Côte d'Ivoire: Biocarburant, une société veut en produire en Côte d'Ivoire - Feb. 20, 2007

Le Patriote (Abidjan), via AllAfrica: Côte d'Ivoire: Bio-énergie - Production de l'éthanol, des investisseurs américains à l'assaut de la Côte d'Ivoire - Feb. 16 2007


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