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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 20, 2007

South African sugar producer expanding operations in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, eyeing ethanol and biomass cogeneration

South African sugar and starch producer Tongaat-Hulett still sees its Zimbabwean sugar investment as a sound asset and, despite serious political issues in that country, CEO Peter Staude said that the firm was aiming to raise Zimbabwe's output to an immediate target of 600,000MT/year, whereas in Mozambique it is aiming for an output of 302,000MT/year in 2009. The expansion is driven by the global drive towards biofuels and electricity cogeneration from biomass.

In 2006, the company's sugar production in Zimbabwe stood at 447,000MT, with the recently-acquired Hippo Valley Estates accounting for 289,000MT and its operations at Triangle Sugar for 315,000MT. Speaking at Tongaat-Hulett's results presentation for the year to December 31, in Johannesburg, Staude described Zimbabwe as a "world class" sugar producer, unveiling an aggressive expansion drive in that country.

He explained that a "relatively low-cost expansion" in sugarcane hectarage and processing capacity of around 2 billion Rand (€214/US$281 million) could see the company raising milling capacity to 1 million tons a year. This would boost sugar production from Zimbabwe by some 400,000MT/year.

The Zimbabwean operations will also benefit from a biofuels spin-off, as Tongaat-Hulett plans to switch to bioethanol at the Triangle and Hippo Valley mills. Staude said that the company would start blending fuel grade ethanol with petrol in 2007. Tongaat-Hulett is actively involved in exploring the viability of bioethanol and was assessing the possibility of establishing a cogeneration plant using waste biomass from sugar production, as global demand for renewable energy is growing and fossil fuels have become costly.

Meanwhile, the company revealed its growth plans for future 'biofuels superpower' Mozambique, a country set to benefit from the European Union's (EU's) sugar reform:
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This comes on the back of a recently-announced 1.3 billion Rand (€138.8/US$182.6 million) expansion at the Xinavene and Mafambisse mills, where production would be considerably scaled up.

At the Xinavene mill production would be increased from 65,000MT/year of sugar, in 2006, to 186,000MT/year, in 2009 and at Mafambisse production was set to increase from 41,000MT/year, in 2006, to 82,000MT/year, in 2009.

Staude said on Monday that the Mafambisse operation had the potential to grow to about 116,000MT/year, but did not give an exact timeframe. In 2007, Tongaat-Hulett would plant an additional 2,100 ha of cane at the Mafambisse operation.

To back its growth plans, the company had completed a 30 million Rand dam in December, to support the region that had been hit by an extended drought.

Mozambique was also the only country in which Tongaat-Hulett operated that stood in line to benefit from the EU's sugar reforms, as it formed part of a group of 22 other sugar producing countries that qualified as least-developed countries, and would stand in line to benefit as the EU reduces exports.

'Black empowerment'
In South Africa, Tongaat-Hulett will be introducing broad based 'Black Economic Empowerment' (BEE) equity participation, representing disadvantaged communities surrounding its property developments and the small scale cane grower communities supplying its four South African sugar mills.


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