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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 03, 2007

Tanzania's opportunity: to produce biofuels for export to Europe, says Swedish ambassador

Europe leads the biodiesel and biogas revolution, but ethanol is quickly catching up. In Sweden, a large effort involving all stakeholders - consumers, government, ethanol producers, car manufacturers - has resulted in a relatively fast penetration and acceptance of the biofuel and of flex-fuel cars (earlier post). Until now, Sweden imported some 75% of its ethanol from Brazil. But the country is looking abroad to diversify its portfolio of suppliers.

In particular, the focus is on sub-Saharan Africa. Not only does the continent hold an enormous untapped technical biofuel potential (earlier post), it also needs development, economic change, employment and strengthening of its agricultural sector. Last year, Sweden made some first, tentative investments in Mozambique (earlier post), a potential biofuels 'superpower' (earlier post).

Now, Tanzania has come into focus. The Swedish Ambassador to the large East African country, Torvald Akesson, has said that Tanzania has the possibility of taking the lead in Africa in producing biofuels for export to Europe, which needs to drastically reduce the CO2 emissions.

"Here is a window of opportunity for Tanzania following the increasing concerns of global warming in Europe and elsewhere," the envoy said during an exclusive interview with Dar es Salaam based The Guardian, which took place at the Swedish Embassy in Dar es Salaam.

He added that the Government of Sweden had decided to considerably reduce its oil dependency and replace it with biofuels. Akesson said this was a golden chance for Tanzania because there was a possibility of oil prices falling because of concerns on global warming. And if oil prices fall, only biofuels produced in countries in the South can survive.

Tanzania's 38 million in habitants currently use around 5.1 million hectares of land, out of a total 94.5 million hectares of land suitable for agriculture (see the FAO's database with the latest statistics on land-use). Even after all the food, fiber, fodder and fuel wood needs for the country's rapidly growing population are met, there still remains an enormous amount of land available for energy farming. Like Mozambique, Congo, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Angola (earlier post), Tanzania too is one of the future 'biofuels superpowers':
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Currently, there are no in-depth analyses available on Tanzania's actual bioenergy potential, but we guesstimate that it will be similar to that of a country like Angola. That is: in 2050, when Tanzania's population has increased from 38 million (2005) to 67 million, the country will be able to export some 3 million barrels of oil equivalent biofuels per day - after having met the needs for food, fiber, fodder and fuel wood for Tanzania's population.

Asked to suggest a development model that could make Tanzania an advanced state, which is a prerequisite to it becoming an industrial biofuel exporter, the Swedish ambassador said there was no secret recipe. He added: "It is a matter of getting the policies and the priorities right; then hard and consistent work. I have spent more than 16 years overseas in various postings - most of them in Asia, where I have witnessed the rapid development of some Asian countries."

The Swedish envoy said that the private sector as the engine of growth could provide increased employment, such that further improvements in the investment and business climate would have positive effects as has been the case in many Asian countries.

Dwelling on relations between Sweden and Tanzania, Akesson said that cooperation was very good and friendly as it was based on a long period of close contacts and cooperation in various fields.

"Tanzania is the biggest recipient of Swedish development assistance - this year it will get approximately US dollars 100 million. Tanzania knows Sweden and Sweden knows Tanzania," he said.

On whether Sweden was satisfied with the use of that aid, he said that there were many projects and programmes that he would label as successful.

"There are certainly others where mistakes have been made or that in hind sight cannot be considered as successful. It has not been easy for the government of Tanzania to manage so many projects and programmes in the past� Sweden is a strong supporter of improving aid effectiveness. Systems, structures and processes of the government of Tanzania should be used rather than setting up parallel systems as has been the case for too long," he said.

Akesson said Sweden had agreed with the Tanzanian government that General Budget Support should be the preferred aid modality and that the ownership of the development lay clearly with the Tanzanian government.


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