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    Biofuels and bioenergy producers in Ireland, a country which just recently passed bioenergy legislation, are allocated excise relief for imported biomass. Unison Ireland (subscription req'd). - March 13, 2007.

    EDF Energies Nouvelles, a subsidiary of energy giant Electricité de France, has announced a move into biofuels, by sealing a preliminary agreement with Alcofinance SA of Belgium. Upon completion of a reserved issue of shares for €23 million, EDF Energies Nouvelles will own 25% of a newly formed company housing Belgium-based Alcofinance's ethanol production and distribution activities. Alcofinance's projects are located in the Ghent Bioenergy Valley. BusinessWire - March 13, 2007.

    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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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Brazil in Africa: South-South cooperation on bioenergy speeding up

Brazil is taking its role as biofuels leader and its representation as a model for the Global South to follow, very seriously. Earlier we reported on the country's first exchanges last year with countries like Senegal, Nigeria and Sudan, and on how scientists are studying models to replicate Brazil's green energy success abroad (earlier post).

Late last year, however, the country gave a much stronger sign of its intentions, when the Brazilian government created a dedicated Africa cell for the Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agrícola (Embrapa - Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) in Accra, Ghana's capital. Embrapa is a leading government-supported biotech and agricultural research organisation with a long history of involvement in Brazil's biofuels success (e.g. Embrapa helped decode the genome of sugarcane).

Earlier this month, diplomats of 18 African embassies gathered in the Brazilian capital Brasília, to attend the announcement of the objectives of the organization's new office in Africa. Its aims are to promote South-South exchanges of expertise and technology transfers from Brazil to Africa, in order to speed up the transition towards bioenergy and biofuels in the developing world. African countries have a vast untapped sustainable bioenergy potential (earlier post), and Brazil thinks that investing in it offers a powerful set of tools for economic development and poverty alleviation, for the fight against social inequality and for the revitalisation of rural communities.

Brazil is effectively giving birth to a new development paradigm, based on South-South exchanges, in which access to energy, energy security and social development are key.

A quick overview of Embrapa's actions on the continent during the first months of the existence of its Africa cell:
  • Morocco becomes the first North African country to establish a partnership with the office. Two weeks ago, the coordinator of Embrapa Africa, Cláudio Bragantini, visited the agronomic research institute of the federal Hasan II Academy. According to Bragantini the partnership will be concentrated mainly in the production of biodiesel, which may be obtained from castor seeds and pine seeds, drought tolerant plants of the region. "The Moroccans are very interested in participating in trainings in the area of biotechnology and also in the development of agricultural projects with the private sector," stated Bragantini.
  • Libya is another Arab country that has shown interest to make use of the Embrapa office in Africa. According to the Bragantini, the Libyan embassy in Ghana is keen on a partnership in the area of irrigated agriculture. "Libya finances many agricultural projects in Ghana and in other countries in the region," he said. According to Bragantini, the idea behind this specific project is to pipe a large volume of water discovered when drilling in the search of oil and use the product in irrigated agriculture. "There (in Libya) we have a great advantage. The government has financial assets and great interest in the project and Embrapa has the necessary technology. This is an opportunity that may generate a fabulous partnership. We promised to move ahead with this project and to send a letter of intention to the Libyan embassy in Ghana," he explained.
  • Tunisia: with regard to Tunisia, Bragantini says that a delegation of four Embrapa Forestry representatives, from the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, travelled to the country to develop a project in the area of management of eucalyptus for the extraction of energy. The Brazilian embassy in Ghana has received a further note of interest from Tunisia to develop other projects related to bioenergy in arid environments.
  • Angola - a country with a large bioenergy potential (earlier post) - has demanded help for expertise on developing a soybean industry for biofuels.
  • In Mozambique, Embprapa is looking into to strengthening the research capacities of the Institute for Agrarian Research of Mozambique (Iiam), which requested such help.
  • Across sub-Saharan Africa there is great demand for knowledge and expertise on the post-harvest processing technologies for cassava, one of the most abundantly grown crops on the continent. "We have already trained technicians in Ghana for this activity," explains Bragantini. Cassava is being researched as a feedstock for biofuel production.
  • Researchers from Embrapa's Africa cell have further visited Kenya, Benin and Togo (no details yet).
Embrapa's mission in the South
Bragantini explains that "it is worth pointing out that the office does not only represent Embrapa, but Brazil as a whole. The office works as an agent to facilitate the link between financial organizations and governments and we will have our doors opened to private companies in agribusiness that may be interested in participating in this revolution":
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"We have a work agenda that is geared at transferring technology that worked in Brazil. We offer them our work and, if necessary, will work based on the demand of each country," pointed out Bragantini. The requests reach the office through the Foreign Relations Department at the Embrapa, through the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), directly to the office or even through international organizations interested in partnerships.

According to Bragantini, the greatest demand from governments is related to small farmers. "We have large volumes of technology developed in the northeast of Brazil and in the semi-arid regions of the country that may adapt well to the climate and soil in Africa," stated Bragantini.

According to him, the great demand is for direct planting and minimum cultivation (a system that requires some superficial soil work), for projects that promote integration between crops and livestock farming. "In savannas a large part of the soil is degraded and needs recovery," he said.

Social development, poverty alleviation
Long neglected by international development agencies, governments and NGOs alike, basic agriculture is back into the spotlight of policy makers and development economists. Brazil's left-leaning government, which has vowed to fight social inequality, poverty and hunger domestically - and achieved modest success so far - with programs in which rural development are key, now wants to export the same discourse on development to Africa. It feels international agencies like the World Bank, the IMF, or individual governments have not achieved any substantial success on this front, because these agents mainly rely on purely neo-liberal economic policies (symbolised by the now defunct 'structural adjustment' ideology) which tend to increase social inequalities.

By putting rural and sustainable development, and concrete tech transfers central to its own assistance program for Africa, Brazil makes a shift in current thinking on development. "We want to associate ourselves with the African countries. We want to make agreements for cooperation in the area of technology transfer for tropical agriculture," stated the acting head of international relations at Embrapa, Washington Silva, at the diplomatic meeting in Brasília. "The African countries need Brazilian help in the area of research and technology transfer to help in the development of the continent."

According to Silva, there is already sufficient demand in the African countries for cooperation agreements to be developed. "The ambassadors showed interest and inquired about how to proceed to have Embrapa services," he said. The meeting also served to schedule the beginning of dialogue to establish strategies for the strengthening of relations between Brazil and the African countries.

More information:
BrazzilMag: A Whole Lot Going on in Africa Courtesy of Brazil - March 13, 2007.
ANBA: Morocco wants to produce biodiesel with Brazilian technology - March 12, 2007.
BrazzilMag: Brazil Uses Agriculture to Fight Poverty in Africa - March 5, 2007.


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