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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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Monday, March 12, 2007

Biomass-to-liquids in Brazil

There's a steady competition of ideas between biofuel producers in the North, and those in the South. First generation biofuels - such as sugarcane ethanol - are far more efficient than comparable fuels made from crops grown in temperate climates, such as corn ethanol, which has a very weak energy balance. For this reason, the South and energy analysts from energy institutes like the IEA are calling for the creation of a regime promoting global biofuel trade, in which the developing world supplies world markets and generates export revenues from it (earlier post). Brazil's efforts on this front, which resulted in a cooperation agreement with the US, clearly make this point.

But the North is investing heavily in so-called 'second generation' biofuels, which utilize a far wider variety of biomass feedstocks, such as wood chips and agro-forestry residues. These ligno-cellulosic feedstocks can be converted into liquid fuels via a biochemical conversion process, using special enzymes, or via a thermochemical process based on biomass gasification and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis ('biomass-to-liquids'), which results in 'synthetic' biofuels (earlier post). The North hopes these technologies will ultimately surpass the efficiency of biofuels produced in the South.

Obviously, this will not be the case if countries in the tropics and subtropics utilize the very same processes. The basic fact remains that biomass productivity in the South is naturally higher than that in temperate climates, resulting in competitive advantages that cannot be changed fundamentally. Consequently, the entire discussion about trade barriers and biofuel subsidies will not become obsolete with the arrival of second generation biofuels. (For a good and frequently updated overview of the Brazilian perspective on biofuel trade discussions, check Henrique Oliveira's Ethablog).

After decades of investments in an ultimately highly successful first generation biofuel - sugarcane ethanol - Brazil now is waking up to the potential of these next-generation biofuels. Proof is an interesting overview written for the Energy Tribune by Fernando B. de Oliveira, a process engineer, and Sirlei S. A. de Sousa, is a senior gas-to-liquids consultant at the Petrobras R&D Center in Rio de Janeiro. We replicate their 'opinion piece' here integrally, for future reference. The authors make the case as to why second-generation biofuels produced in the South will be far more competitive than those produced in the US or the EU.

The following is their analysis of the potential to generate liquid hydrocarbons through gasification and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis from two abundantly available biomass streams in Brazil, namely wood and bagasse. The wood stream would come from dedicated energy plantations in which trees like Eucalyptus and Acacia would be grown in short-rotation cycles. A recent analysis by a consortium of European academic institutions put Brazil's explicitly sustainable long-term wood plantation potential at 46 million hectares (earlier post). Bagasse, the other biomass resource, is a byproduct from first generation sugarcane ethanol production:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Biomass to Liquid process (Fischer-Tropsch synthesis)

The synthesis of hydrocarbons from carbon monoxide, CO hydrogenation over transition metal catalysts, was discovered in 1902. Collectively, the process of converting CO and H2 mixtures to liquid hydrocarbons over a transition metal catalyst has become known as the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. Two main characteristics of FTS are the unavoidable production of a wide range of hydrocarbon products and the liberation of a large amount of heat from the highly exothermic synthesis reactions.

Consequently, reactor design and process development has focused heavily on heat removal and temperature control. The focus of catalyst development is on improved catalyst lifetimes, activity, and selectivity. Product distributions are influenced by temperature, feed gas composition (H2/CO), pressure, and catalyst type and composition. There are four main steps to producing FT products: syngas generation, gas purification, FT synthesis, and product upgrading.

When the feedstock is biomass, its conversion to a suitable feed gas for FTS, containing H2 and CO, takes place through gasification. But in this case, a pre-treatment prior to gasification is required, and generally consists of screening, size reduction, magnetic separation, “wet” storage, drying, and “dry” storage. Gasification can take place at different pressures, either directly or indirectly heated (lower temperatures), and with oxygen or air. Direct heating occurs by partial oxidation of the feedstock, while indirect heating occurs through a heat exchange mechanism. Upgrading usually means a combination of hydrotreating, hydrocracking, and hydroisomerization in addition to product separation. Unlike conventional fuels, FT fuels contain no sulfur and low aromatics. These properties, along with a high cetane number, result in superior combustion characteristics.

From the information available in the literature, our studies suggest the use of a process, based on the FTS, aiming at the best use of wood and sugarcane byproducts (bagasse/trash) for the production of high-quality liquid byproducts, such as diesel, naphtha, base oils, and paraffin, and also the concomitant generation of electricity.

The scheme of the chosen process involves the following steps: biomass pre-treatment section, generation of syngas through the gasification process (atmospheric fluidized bed air blown gasifier), and adjustment of the ratio of the H2/CO to be fed to the Fischer-Tropsch reactor (cobalt-based catalyst) through a shift reactor. In Tables 1 and 2, the elementary and immediate analyses of biomass can be found in percentage weight adopted in this study.

Table 3 shows the results of biomass consumption for their two feedstocks, aiming at the production of high-quality liquid byproducts as well as electric power generation.

The results listed in Table 3 show a decrease of around 13 percent in the consumption of biomass when wood is used to supply the process. The advantages and disadvantages of this scheme need to be studied further, considering, for example, the availability and cost of the raw materials.

Using entirely the syngas generated in the gasification stage, this study also estimated (Table 4) the potential for electric power generation considering a Combined Cycle – CC – and a Condensing Extraction Steam Turbine – CEST.

Electricity Generation
It is important to point out that FTS produces a residual gas stream that may be used to generate electric power through a combined cycle. This allows the sugarcane bagasse to be directed towards plant BTL, thus increasing the production of liquid byproducts and keeping the electric power generation for use by the plant and/or neighborhoods. Various studies are currently trying to perfect the generation of electric power and the production of liquid byproducts with or without power generation via FTS.

All start from the most diversified generators of biomass, aiming to increase the use of this kind of raw material for the world’s energy sources, thus decreasing dependence on non-renewables. Currently, most efforts are concentrated on the development of adequate gasification processes for each type of biomass.

In the case of Brazil, some studies have already demonstrated the viability of bagasse and trash from sugarcane processing as a feedstock in ethanol fuel mills.


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