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    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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Friday, March 09, 2007

German companies create joint venture for biogas production, to invest €50 million

Local energy player REWAG and the world's largest biogas firm Schmack Energie Holding's subsidiary Schmack Biogas AG have partnered to create [*German] a joint-venture that will supply the German region of Regensburg with renewable, carbon-neutral biogas. Through a new company, called RENION Biogas GmbH, both partners will invest up to €50 (US$65.7) million into new infrastructures, biogas plants and distribution chains.

The biogas will be produced from dedicated energy crops (such as special biogas maize, and purpose-bred grass species such as Sudan grass, Sorghum and their hybrids), and provide a feedstock for the production of electricity, heat, and fuel for cars. Part of the biogas stream will be used on-site, whereas another part will be fed into the natural gas grid of the region.

It is the largest investment of its kind.

"With this venture we stimulate the creation of added value for the local economy."says Norbert Breidenbach, CEO of REWAG. Ulrich Schmack, CEO of Schmack Biogas AG adds: "Moreover, this way we considerably reduce our dependence on gas imports from abroad."

Ulrich Schmack aqcuired some notoriety last year, when he, as an energy advisor to the German government, said the country could replace all natural gas imports from Russia, by investing in biogas (earlier post). Later, he was proven right by a report that indeed showed the enormous potential for biogas production in Europe: at current investment rates, by 2020 Europe could become entirely independent from Russian gas (earlier post). With the foundation of RENION, Schmack now indicates he's willing to back his own vision with the necessary funds.

Biogas blossoms
Biogas has seen a real boom in Germany: last year, some 3500 large biogas plants were online, producing more energy than the country's famed wind industry (earlier post). Of these biogas plants, Schmack operates 171 with a combined capacity of 41MW. The German government supports the renewable energy sector, and especially the segment based on the utilisation of biomass resources:
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The potential of the green gas is gradually being recognized outside Europe, with U.S. analysts predicting 2007 will be the year biogas makes its definte breakthrough accross the pond (earlier post).

"As a utility, we have the political duty to tap into new energy sources, in order to ensure our independence from fossil fuels, the supplies of which have become problematic, and to create a diversified energy mix," says Breidenbach. Both companies want to rely on each other's expertise and competences to create synergies with which it will become possible to market the heat from the biogas cogeneration plants in an efficient manner.

Schmack: "Through the joint-venture with REWAG, we speed up the creation of our own companies, a committment we made to our shareholders. REWAG is a strong partner in the region. Together, we can find suitable sites for biogas plants much easier, and tap the opportunities to feed biogas into the regional natural gas grid. Moreover, together we will be in a position to bring the generated heat to market in an efficient way. We are very pleased to have the local government on board, which fully backs this project."

Regional advantages
Up to two thirds of all productive activity carried out by the joint-venture will be located in the Regensburg region. This way, employment is generated and locally grounded chains of added value are created, as the activities, from the source to the consumer, are all anchored in and around Regensburg.

The local government's role is seen as crucial and beneficial. The institution has initiated information sessions for stakeholders and for the public at large - an important step towards the long-term success of this kind of projects, which often hinges on public acceptance and transparent information. The local government will also be directly involved in concrete planning steps for the establishment of the biogas plants.

Biogas - the most efficient of all biofuels
Both partners stress that biogas is the most efficient of all green fuels, as it yields the highest amount of energy when the entire farm-to-fuel chain is analysed (earlier post).

Crude, unnpurified biogas can be used directly, on-site in combined heat-and-power plants, but after scrubbing the CO2 out, it can be fed into the natural gas grid (earlier post). This way it reaches consumers without them noticing it.

REWAG has extensive experience with the transport and distribution of natural gas, and with contract models for the distribution of heat. The company also co-operates with the construction sector and offers efficient concepts for heat systems that are integrated in building plans from the start. Biogas plants neatly fit into this activity.

Biogas is used most efficiently in combined heat-and-power plants, with the generated heat distributed on a district level.

But the renewable gas also makes for a green fuel to be used in CNG-capable cars. German energy companies are marketing the green gas as such and are building dedicated highway fuel stations for it (earlier post). As such, biomethane has the highest energy efficiency and the lowest carbon footprint of all renewable transport fuels. Seen in this context, RENION's investment will result in an amount of energy capable of fueling 20,000 cars per year.


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