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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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Monday, February 12, 2007

The Netherlands aims to become a 'bioport' for global biomass trading - report

The notion of using biomass as fuel and feedstock in a biobased economy is fast gaining in popularity, not least due to rocketing energy prices. The Netherlands needs to catch up with the leaders in this emerging green economy without delay, and should choose to become Europe's leading 'bioport'. This is the recommendation of a consortium of Dutch research organisations and energy firms.

Other countries are vying for the same title. Previously we reported on how Belgium is investing in a 'Silicon Valley' for the bioeconomy, called the Ghent Bioenergy Valley (earlier post), and how its port of Antwerp is rapidly becoming a 'bio-terminal' that imports and exports biomass and finished biofuels to and from the entire world (earlier post). These developments make it apparent that the future of biomass trade will be global: the developing world will become the main producer because of its competitive advantages, whereas bioports in the North will transform and distribute the biomass into finished bioproducts (an overview of some aspects of this future).

The Dutch InnovationNetwork has now published an interesting report showing what the concept of such a 'bioport' entails. In the study entitled "Bioport: Nederland als mainport voor biomassa" [*Dutch/*.pdf], the network shows that with its strong chemical, agricultural and logistical cluster, the Netherlands is well placed to fulfil a prominent role in a global biobased economy. The Netherlands would have to ship substantial volumes - up to 100 million tons - of biomass from abroad, which would result in new economic activity in logistics, processing and research and development. The challenge will be to develop the Netherlands into a major hub for biofuels and bioenergy, with synergies between the food, chemical and power sectors.

In order to achieve this, Mainport Rotterdam must be successfully transformed from an oil and chemical port to a port for the landing and processing of biofuel and biopower. Specific niches could be served by other harbours. This development will have a major impact on agricultural production and supply chains within and outside the Netherlands.

The study set out three primary tracks towards actual realization of the Bioport:
  • A science port would profitably link knowledge, high-quality products and the development of specialized basic materials.
  • A cascade port would achieve closed cycles as regards food, feed, chemicals and energy, and would generate added value in the exchange of products between chains rather than within chains.
  • A logistics port would involve the development of a large-scale international Bioport in the port of Rotterdam (bio-Botlek district), which would play a key role both in energy distribution in north-western Europe and in the global trend of using biomass as an energy source.
The Bioport concept is well-suited to a project approach, or rather a project developer approach. A "Bioport Investment Fund" will provide active support to project developers so that they will be able to start activities. Key strategies supported by the Fund include new networks, clustering and the establishment of complementary businesses:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

At this time, it is not certain who will be directing the Bioport development.

Exploratory interviews and meetings were held in 2006 to find interested parties for participation in the Bioport concept, among businesses already involved in biomass chains as well as parties in other sectors with complementary knowledge and skills (e.g. financial service providers or development companies). Activities are carried out in cooperation with the ports of Rotterdam and Groningen. Local and regional authorities, knowledge institutions and businesses are also involved.

Need for biomass imports
Of interest to the Biopact is the report's observation that Europe, and the Netherlands in particular, will become large importers of biomass. Because of the bulkiness of the raw materials (a lower energy density compared to that of fossil fuels), only sea and ocean transport will allow producers to keep transport costs low enough. The authors broadly sketch the chain through which the biomass resources will travel:
Because of these substantial volumes, new storage methods are required and large investments in transformation and conversion capacities will have to be made. In order to reduce the voluminosity of the biomass resources [...] we expect a first transformation to happen in the immediate vicinity of the production areas (within a radius of approximately 50 kilometers). So-called 'biocrude' will then be shipped to a processing site. This will be the case for biomass transformed into heavy fuels for industry. [...]
A second stream which is already being traded is that of biomass transformed locally into bio-ethanol, which is consequently transported over long distances by tanker. In both the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, this stream is growing significantly.
Finally, solid biomass for electricity production will be imported in bulk because it is competitive with its fossil counterpart, namely coal [pp. 25-26].
Cascading and clustering
Using a 'cyclical innovation model' and a cascading model to describe the key drivers of the planned bioport and of the interlocking biomass and bioproducts streams, the authors conclude that a synergy between three clusters is most suitable for the situation in the Netherlands:

1. Science Bioport
This port would develop novel biobased products and materials. It would become a multidisciplinary knowledge center where the universities of Delft, Wageningen and Utrecht, as well as leading research organisations, cooperate intensively.
Synergies will emerge between 'hard' technology development in combination with green chemistry and plant biology.

Becoming a knowledge hub for the bioeconomy, the 'science port' is aimed at attracting highly specialised companies active in the biotech sector.

2. Cascade Bioport
The bioeconomy is fundamentally based on a cascading model: each waste-stream from a productive sector, becomes the input for a new productive stream.

The development of new applications of waste-streams will eventually create a closed loop from which high-tech bioproducts emerge. The only external input are 'primary' raw materials from abroad.

This cascading model will attract a cluster of businesses which thrive off each other.

3. Logistical Bioport
In order to create a smooth input of raw materials from abroad, the logistical port will import and store biomass, after which it is transformed into the building blocks for the green chemistry cascading cluster.
The planned infrastructure also focuses on the European hinterland (Germany, Eastern and Central Europe), which the Bioport aims to serve.

The energy needs for this logistical port will be served by biomass itself, through the utilisation of optimal and highly efficient heat and power coupling facitilies.

At the same time, electricity is produced and distributed at this node, making it an 'energy port'. This implies a 'virtual' networkport in which decentralised energy production (from biomass power plants located all over the Netherlands) will be coupled to the large-scale production of energy at the logistical port.

This way, scale advantages can be obtained.

The Bioport concept was developed by, amongst others, the following organisations: Port of Rotterdam, Technical University of Delft, Wageningen Agricultural University, Ecofys, Seaport, DoTank, LNV-Noord, the University of Utrecht, Zeeland Seaport, the Suikerunie (Sugar Union), Shell and the 'Platform Groene Grondstoffen' (Platform for Green Fuels). This consortium plans to implement the development of (parts) of the concept in the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, before the end of 2007.

More information:
Innovation Network: 'Bioport' concept page [*Dutch].
Innovation Network: Bioport: Nederland als mainport voor biomassa - report [*.pdf or check the intro page presenting the report, in *.html format], Jan. 2007.


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