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    Fuel Tech, Inc., today announced a demonstration order for its 'Targeted In-Furnace Injection' program, part of a set of technologies aimed at controlling slagging, fouling, corrosion, opacity and acid plume problems in utility scale boilers. The order was placed by an electric generating facility located in Italy, and will be conducted on two biomass units burning a combination of wood chips and olive husks. BusinessWire - March 9, 2007.

    At a biofuels conference ahead of the EU's Summit on energy and climate change, Total's chief of agricultural affairs says building environmentally friendly 'flexible-fuel' cars only cost an additional €200 (US$263) a vehicle and that, overall, ethanol is cheaper than gasoline. MarketWatch - March 8, 2007.

    During a session of Kazakhstan's republican party congress, President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced plans to construct two large ethanol plants with the aim to produce biofuels for exports to Europe. Company 'KazAgro' and the 'akimats' (administrative units) of grain-growing regions will be charged to develop biodiesel, bioethanol and bioproducts. KazInform - March 6, 2007.

    Saab will introduce its BioPower flex-fuel options to its entire 9-3 range, including Sport Sedan, SportCombi and Convertible bodystyles, at the Geneva auto show. GreenCarCongress - March 2, 2007.

    British oil giant BP plans to invest around US$50 million in Indonesia's biofuel industry, using jatropha oil as feedstock. BP will build biofuel plants with an annual capacity of 350,000 tons for which it will need to set up jatropha curcas plantations covering 100,000 hectares of land, to guarantee supply of feedstock, an official said. Antara [*cache] - March 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has decided to increase the acreage dedicated to biofuel crops -- soybean, rape, sunflower, and sweet potato -- from 1,721 hectares in 2006 to 4,550 hectares this year, the Council of Agriculture said. China Post - March 2, 2007.

    Kinder Morgan Energy Partners has announced plans to invest up to €76/US$100 million to expand its terminal facilities to help serve the growing biodiesel market. KMP has entered into long-term agreements with Green Earth Fuels, LLC to build up to 1.3 million barrels of tankage that will handle approximately 8 million barrels of biodiesel production at KMP's terminals on the Houston Ship Channel, the Port of New Orleans and in New York Harbor. PRNewswire - March 1, 2007.

    A project to build a 130 million euro ($172 million) plant to produce 200,000 cubic metres of bioethanol annually was announced by three German groups on Tuesday. The plant will consume about 600,000 tonnes of wheat annually and when operational in the first half of 2009 should provide about a third of Germany's estimated bioethanol requirements. Reuters - Feb. 27, 2007.

    Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs has announced that government vehicles in Taipei City will begin using E3 fuel, composed of 97% gasoline and 3% ethanol, on a trial basis in 2007. Automotive World - Feb. 27, 2007.

    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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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Biofuels to the rescue of distressed farmers in Andhra Pradesh

The Statesman reports that farmers in India's state of Andhra Pradesh who have been through crises for years, are looking to turn the corner thanks to the unprecedented emphasis on biofuels by the the state's government. With the aid of the Andhra Pradesh based Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a partner of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), Governor Rajashekar Reddy has launched a biofuel program adapted to local agro-ecological conditions and which includes guaranteed minimum prices for biofuel feedstocks, resulting in new and secure incomes for the rural poor. Smallholders, and not agro-industrial giants, make up the vast bulk of producers who stand to benefit.

High fuel prices are having a direct negative effect on all sectors of life in the state, from industry to mobility and agriculture. Replacing fossil fuels with biofuels reduces this impact. Under the program, two types of biofuel feedstocks are being focused on: maize for the production of ethanol and pongamia seeds for biodiesel.

In Andhra Pradesh, the area under maize has doubled in the last three years and the government procured around 400,000 tonnes last year. Though this amount is currently meant to meet fodder needs for the poultry industry, the government is using this stream to lay a networking and marketing base for exploiting the feedstock for future biofuel production. Andhra Pradesh is aiming to begin ethanol extraction by mid-2008.

The manner in which government is promoting maize is impacting the farmers directly. Before the program, they would sell maize for 4000 rupiah (US$90) per ton or even less. The government has fixed a minimum support price of 5400 rupiah (US$122) per ton last year. "Now no farmer can say he is getting less than that. In fact they are selling at 6000-7000 rupiah (US$135-158) per ton on average”, the agriculture minister says.

Persistent drought in the state has made agriculture for food increasingly difficult, which is why drought-tolerant biofuel crops are being introduced as well, offering new opportunities for often desperate farmers.

The pongamia program relies on a system of guaranteed prices too. Pongamia pinnata (see profile in the Handbook of Energy Crops) is a widely grown drought tolerant tree that yields seeds the oil of which makes for a good biodiesel feedstock. It's water requirements are even lower than that of Jatropha curcas. The ICRISAT has been running a promising pilot project with the crop, which is benefiting the livelihoods of poor rural women by strengthening their incomes and by allowing them to diversify crops.

"We started work [with pongamia] in early 2006 and now 130,000 acres (52,610 hectares) are under plantation. This is national record. We prepared a scheme where the government pays 10,800 rupiah (US$244) for each acre of pongamia plantation managed by a smallholder. That is the amount needed for digging pits, planting saplings, watering and finally grafting”, he said.

The farmer would begin realising harvestable yields from the fourth year onwards. Now the government has announced that it offers a guaranteed minimum price of 10 rupiah per kilo. Each acre holds around 200 plants and each plant, in the worst case scenario, yields 2.5 kilos of seed. In other words, the smallholder is reaping 5,000 rupiah (US$113) worth of harvest per acre without any upfront investment:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

“In the tenth year an acre would yield between 12,000 to 15,000 rupiah of income (US$271 - 339). After the third year the plant needs no water support. This is a drought resistant variety and can survive even if there is no rain for four years. Biofuels are turning out to be a huge boom for our farmers”.

Agriculture minister Mr N Raghuveera Reddy adds that "no state has a road map for biofuel plantations and extraction comparable to Andhra Pradesh's. We are aiming to bring 5 million acres [2 million hectares] under cultivation exclusively for biofuel crops. That would be one fifth’s of the state’s total cultivable area,”

The government has tied up with companies to set up plants to extract petrol and diesel from maize and jethropa respectively. These units are coming up at Kakinda, Nandyal, Guntur and Hyderabad.

Image: poor women tending a pongamia nursery, courtesy ICRISAT.

More information:
Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics: Biofuel Crops: Power to the Poor - Sept. 2006.


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