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    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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Thursday, March 01, 2007

A note from the World Sustainable Energy Days: biomass pellets

The World Sustainable Energy Days - one of the largest gatherings of its kind - are currently underway in Wels, Austria. Energy experts from 61 countries convene to take part in three conferences (European Pellets Conference: 28 February - 1 March; the European Energy Efficiency Conference: 1 March; the Conference on the "Energy Future, 2030": 2 March) and a seminar on "Rural Development & Sustainable Energy" (1 March). The Energiesparmesse, running from 1 - 4 March, looks at the latest developments in energy conservation and efficiency.

Some notes [*German] on the European Pellets Conference [*.pdf, overview] as it relates to Austria have meanwhile been published. Biomass fuel pellets are a clean, CO2-neutral and conventient fuel with rapidly growing market shares in many European countries (statistical overview: earlier post) and showing a growing global trade (earlier post on a large Swedish-owned pellet plant based in the U.S. aiming to supply Europe, on pelletiser in the Republic of Congo that will be producing 500,000 tons for exports on a large South African plant with similar goals, and on the Port of Antwerp's activities of building infrastructures to accomodate this trade). Biomass pellets are most often made from wood chips and forestry residues or from woody energy crops grown on dedicated plantations, even though dedicated herbaceous feedstocks (fast growing grass species) are receiving more and more attention as well (earlier post and here).

The fact that biomass has become directly competitive with fossil fuels (earlier post), has sparked a real investment boom in Austria: over 28,000 small biomass burning installations have been built, 12,000 of which utilise pellets; 528 medium-scale, highly efficient combined heat-and-power (CHP) biomass plants have been established (235 of those being district-heating systems) and 9 large biomass cogeneration plants, which are considerably more efficient than traditional utility-scale power plants (earlier post), replace an increasing amount of coal and oil in the country.

Researchers are currently working on developing ultra-efficient micro-CHP systems suitable for home use. With such a system, the household would buy a stock of pellets once a year, and draw both electricity and heating needs from the micro power plant. An interesting concept is emerging around this technology: with a micro-CHP plant, the household not only becomes its own utility, it would also be enabled to strategize around selling green electricity to the grid, which currently relies on large, far less efficient fossil fuel powered plants (earlier post):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Last year, Austria used more than 1 million tons of biomass pellets for the first time, saving over a million tons of CO2. This places the country second after Sweden.

At the opening of the European Pellet Conference, a quick ranking of pellet producing countries was presented:

1. Sweden leads with an annual production of 1.4 million tons
2. Canada, 1.2 million tons/year
3. United States, 1.1 million tons/year
4. Austria, 600,000 tons/year

Austria's production doubled between 2004 and 2006. When it comes to utilising the pellets, Austria ranks fifth after Sweden, the U.S., Denmark and Germany.

It was noted that since December last year, pellet prices have shown a downward trend, after highs of €199 per ton in November. A relatively stable price is seen as a crucial aspect for creating consumer acceptance of the biofuel.

For this reason, the Austrian state of Oberösterreich has taken a series of initiatives to prevent pellet prices to become too volatile. The most important of these are:

1. stronger price controls: there has been suspicion that a biomass pellet cartel was operating that kept prices artificially high and the matter was investigated, but there were no clear indications of the existence of such a cartel. The matter has prompted the state government to create more stringent price controls, executed by the 'Bundeswettbewerbsbehörde' (the institution that investigates the fairness of competition.)

2. incentives for production increases: during a round-table, the Agrar-Landesrat (regional minister of agriculture) and the pellet industry have agreed to quadruple pellet production provided the government works out tax incentives for the companies involved.

3. the establishment of a pellet reserve: in order to strengthen continuous supplies and to offset sudden shortages, the state has studied the possibility of creating pellet reserves; a proposal is on the table to force pellet producers to stock 30% of the quantity they're projecting to sell during the winter season. Under the scheme, stock building will be initiated from September onwards and reach their maximum at the end of November, after which the build-down follows until the end of January.

We will be reporting on other aspects of the conferences hosted by the World Sustainable Energy Days, as soon as more information becomes available.

More information:
OEJournal: OberÖsterreich ist neben Schweden das Biomasseland Europas - Feb. 28, 2007
Biopact: Swedish group to build 550,000 ton biomass pellet plant in Florida for exports to Europe - Feb. 4, 2007
Biopact: South African company to produce biomass pellets for exports to Europe - Feb. 2, 2007


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