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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 26, 2007

Renault and Saab at the International Agricultural Show: biofuels most effective in cutting CO2

Two leading car manufacturers will be present at the International Agricultural Show in Paris (March 3-11, 2007), one of the largest fairs in its kind. French car maker Renault and Swedish manufacturer Saab will showcase their biofuel capable vehicles at fair's section on 'Cultures et filières végétales' [*.pdf French], where biofuels are highlighted.

Saab will present its 9-5 'Biopower', a car that has enjoyed a runaway success in Europe, responsible for the manufacturer's record sales in 2006 (earlier post). Saab has meanwhile developed a version of the Biopower capable of running on pure ethanol.

Renault's participation will highlight its active involvement in the development of biofuel-related technologies with the display of an E85 bioethanol Mégane (pictured) alongside one of its B30 biodiesel-compatible engines, the 1.5 dCi 85hp.

Renault considers biofuels to be the most realistic, effective and economical solution for curbing CO2 emissions in the medium term. Produced from vegetable matter, they represent a diversified renewable energy source capable of diminishing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Growing experience with biofuel technologies
This spring, Renault is poised to launch a Mégane powered by an E85 bioethanol fuelled 1.6 16V 110hp engine, the brand's first bioethanol vehicle in Europe. Derived from existing powerplants in the range, such bioethanol engines require specific development to permit them to run on different types of fuel (petrol or E85 ethanol).

The principal differences concern the fuel system as a whole and the injection system (injectors, sparkplugs, ECU), as well as the pistons, valves and valve seats. Based on experience acquired since 2004 in Brazil, where it sells models functioning on E100 bioethanol, Renault anticipates that "50 per cent of its petrol-engined vehicles on sale in Europe will be able to run on a blend of petrol and up to 85 per cent of ethanol by 2009."

Since late 2006, Renault has sold B30 biodiesel-compatible versions of Trafic 2.0 dCi and Master 2.5 dCi. Aimed principally at companies operating large fleets and equipped with a specific pump, these vehicles cost the same as the equivalent conventional diesel-powered versions. They are also the first concrete examples of the pledge incorporated in Renault Commitment 2009 that "all the diesel engines in the range will be capable of running with 30 per cent biodiesel by 2009." The diesel 1.5 dCi 85hp engine displayed on the stand illustrates how these developments can be carried over to the world of passenger cars.

One of the objectives set out in Renault's "Commitment 2009" is to go even further by selling 1 million vehicles by 2008 that emit less than 140g of CO2 per km, including one-third that emit less than 120g/km. This would fall within the aims of the European Commission's target (earlier post):
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An educational approach to the importance of global warming-related issues Informing the public and enhancing its awareness of the stakes associated with global warming are seen as primordial to Renault's eyes. This necessity is addressed by a bid to explain and communicate the advantages of automotive biofuels in the fight against CO2 emissions.

Visitors to Renault's stand will be informed about the advantages of biofuels and how the industry functions. The benchmark biofuel for petrol-powered cars is bioethanol which is produced from a variety of sources – ranging from corn (USA) and sugar cane (Brazil) to beetroot and wheat (Europe) – depending on the region of the world. Diesel vehicles are fuelled by biodiesel which is produced from oleaginous plants (rapeseed, sunflower, soya, jatropha, palm oil, etc.).

Well-to-wheel pedagogy
Visitors will also be told of the value of biofuels through the so-called 'well-to-wheel' analysis which assesses the CO2 performance of different fuel types across their entire life cycle. In the case of B30 biodiesel, CO2 emissions are 20 per cent lower compared with a conventional diesel fuel and can be as much as 70 per cent lower in the case of E85 bioethanol (derived from sugar cane) compared with petrol. These differences are the result of the process of photosynthesis. While growing, plants absorb a quantity of the CO2 present in the atmosphere, a factor which partially compensates for emissions released during the fuel's production and combustion. This phenomenon does not apply in the case of conventional fuels.

Moreover, just as it did during the 2006 Paris Motor Show, Renault will be giving away 20,000 free copies of its flash card-style 'Incollables' game. This educational tool was developed in association with France's Agence de l’environnement et de maîtrise de l’énergie (ADEME, or Agency for the Environment and Energy Management) and has been designed to inform and enhance awareness of environmental protection issues in the form of a quiz.


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