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    Energy giants BP and China National Petroleum Corp, the PRC's biggest oil producer, are among the companies that are in talks with Guangxi Xintiande Energy Co about buying a stake in the southern China ethanol producer to expand output. Xintiande Energy currently produces ethanol from cassava. ChinaDaily - March 16, 2007.

    Researchers at eTEC Business Development Ltd., a biofuels research company based in Vienna, Austria, have devised mobile facilities that successfully convert the biodiesel by-product glycerin into electricity. The facilities, according to researchers, will provide substantial economic growth for biodiesel plants while turning glycerin into productive renewable energy. Biodiesel Magazine - March 16, 2007.

    Ethanol Africa, which plans to build eight biofuel plants in the maize belt, has secured funding of €83/US$110 million (825 million Rand) for the first facility in Bothaville, its principal shareholder announced. Business Report - March 16, 2007.

    A joint venture between Energias de Portugal SGPS and Altri SGPS will be awarded licences to build five 100 MW biomass power stations in Portugal's eastern Castelo Branco region. EDP's EDP Bioelectrica unit and Altri's Celulose de Caima plan to fuel the power stations with forestry waste material. Total investment on the programme is projected at €250/US$333 million with 800 jobs being created. Forbes - March 16, 2007.

    Indian bioprocess engineering firm Praj wins €11/US$14.5 million contract for the construction of the wheat and beet based bio-ethanol plant for Biowanze SA in Belgium, a subsidiary of CropEnergies AG (a Sudzucker Group Company). The plant has an ethanol production capacity of 300,000 tons per year. IndiaPRWire - March 15, 2007.

    Shimadzu Scientific Instruments announced the availability of its new white paper, “Overview of Biofuels and the Analytical Processes Used in their Manufacture.” The paper is available for free download at the company’s website. The paper offers an overview of the rapidly expanding global biofuel market with specific focus on ethanol and biodiesel used in auto transportation. It provides context for these products within the fuel market and explains raw materials and manufacturing. Most important, the paper describes the analytical processes and equipment used for QA testing of raw materials, in-process materials, and end products. BusinessWire - March 15, 2007.

    Côte d'Ivoire's agriculture minister Amadou Gon has visited the biofuels section of the Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris, one of the largest fairs of its kind. According to his communication office, the minister is looking into drafting a plan for the introduction of biofuels in the West African country. AllAfrica [*French] - March 13, 2007.

    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.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Nypa ethanol in the Niger Delta

The Biopact is currently co-operating with a small environmental NGO in Rivers State, Nigeria, to analyse the feasibility and social and environmental impact of ethanol production from the mangrove palm known as Nypa fruticans ('nipah', 'attap chee', 'nipa').

Nypa grows in tropical mangroves and yields copious amounts of a sugar-rich sap that can be tapped. Mangrove communities traditionally use the plant for a wide variety of purposes, such as thatching and to make vinegar and alcoholic beverages.

The palm is now receiving steady interest as a potential biofuel feedstock because trials show it yields unparalleled amounts of sugar. Theoretical ethanol yields based on actual juice harvests in Malaysia and Papua New Guinea are estimated to reach up to 15,000 to 20,000 liters per hectare (by comparison: sugarcane yields around 5000-8000 liters; corn, 2000 liters).

Prompted by these results, the world's first initiative to actually produce ethanol on a large scale from wild stands of the plant was launched in Malaysia last year (earlier post).

Nypa can be found in most tropical mangrove systems, but in the Niger Delta it has become an invasive species which is colonizing vast parts of this large mangrove system, rapidly. It propagates aggresively and replaces native species. Several eradication efforts have been implemented, but they have largely been unsuccessful. Some are now looking at turning the pest into profit, by utilizing its ethanol potential. The Nigerian mangrove system is the largest in Africa and the third largest in the world, covering an area of over 10,000 square kilometers of which over 504,000 hectares found in the Niger delta region. Nypa fruticans has become the third most dominant species, and now expands up to 45km from the sea shore to the interland.

The densely populated Niger Delta is plagued by civil unrest, mainly driven by the environmental, social and economic misery of the region, which is often said (and perceived) to be the result of the oil industry's predatory practises which disregard local communities. One of the goals of the Biopact's study is to analyse whether building a locally rooted ethanol industry around the abundant Nypa palms can contribute positively to poverty alleviation and provide alternative sources of income to the mangrove communities. Tapping Nypa is labor-intensive, which promises the creation of a considerable number of jobs, but skilled tappers can obtain enough ethanol feedstock to make commercial biofuel production viable while providing decent incomes that surpass official local minimum wages.

An important foundation in the same State, the Harold J. R. Dappa-Biriye Foundation, named after a legendary politician who fought for the liberation and independence of the delta states, recently analysed the potential of this kind of projects. O.C.J. Okocha, chief of the National Bar Association and erudite, delivered the foundation's annual memorial lecture titled "Nypa for ethanol production: the Niger Delta in the limelight", which was published in The Tide Online, a local newspaper. With permission, we reproduce this interesting lecture here in full:
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"Many thanks to the Trustees and Executive Officers of the Harold J R. Dappa-Biriye Foundation for their kind invitation to me to participate in are deliver a lecture at this and Annual Memorial Lecture of the Foundation holding here today. I have been requested to speak on the topic Nypa Palm, biologically called nypa fruticans, and its usefulness in the production of the biofuel ETHANOL, are topics that only scientists are researchers in those fields are qualified to discuss; but then Niger Delta in the Limelight? – a favourite topic for most of us. The dilemma post should be apparent to all of us, especially because the blaze of publicity that has engulfed the Niger Delta Reg1on of Nigeria in recent times, is manifestly significant, not because of the Nipa Palm, but for a variety of other reasons. In this latter regard, I can claim to be on familiar territory, as I am an indigene of Rivers State, from the Ikwerre Nation, and I have resided in Port Harcourt since the, year 1970.

It is indeed an honour to be standing her~ today, speaking at a forum the memorializes the late Chief Harold J. R. Dappa-Biriye, CON, Ph.D., JP, who was translated to eternity a few years ago. When as a young boy, I returned to Port Harcourt., in January, 1970, from, the enclave called Biafra, and entered the Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Borokiri, I came to know Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, as one of the pioneer members of the Rivers State Executive Council, under the chairmanship of the inimitable

Commander Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff (as he then was), the first Military Governor of River State. I later came to knew that Chief Harold Dappa Biriye was one of the political icons of the old Rivers Province, who founded and headed his own Political Party, the Niger Delta Congress. I believe it was called, and that he had on several occasions represented the Rivers Province, and indeed the minority ethnic nationalities of the Niger

Delta, at several Constitutional Conference that were organized by the British Government prior to Nigeria’s attainment of Independence. I recall that when I had the honour to serve as the Attorney-General of Rivers State, from 1990 to 1992, I met with him on several occasions, to find a way forward on the vexed issue of Comey Subsidies, one of his favourite topics.

And a few years before his death, he came to seek my legal advice on a matter which had felt had been mishandled by another legal practitioner, for which he desired to proceed on appeal to the Court of Appeal. I felt quite gratified, that he accepted my legal opinion on the matter, and with deep satisfaction. And so I salute him, and his esteemed memory, for his loyal and dedicated services to our people, and for all he did to forward the interests of Rivers State, and indeed the minority ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta. May his soul continue to rest in perfect peace. AMEN.

May I also salute the Harold J. R. Dappa-Biriye Foundation, and also commend the Trustees and Executive Officers thereof, for institutionalizing the Memorial Lecture Series in honour of late Chief Harold J. R. Dappa-Biriye. It seems to me that Lecture Series such as this should be seen as veritable platforms for us to discuss topical issues of the day, and hope that, by so doing, we can send a clear message to those who claim that they are politicians (I call them the “so-called elected representatives of the people”), but who in actual fact have unlawfully hijacked the instruments of government from their own selfish purposes, and who have used their privileged positions to block truly patriotic Nigerian from finding accommodation within the political space of our beloved country, so that those patriots can actualize our hopes and aspirations for a better tomorrow.

And so, let us cheerfully embrace the opportunity to speak, and many all those who, have ears listen and hear; for we too must have our say.

The Nipa Palm
From literature made available to me by the Foundation and from what I have personally read, I gathered that the Nipa Palm was originally from the mangrove forests of southeast Asia, i.e. India, Malaysia,’ Indonesia. The Philippines and Bangladesh. It was, introduced into the Niger Delta at the beginning of the 20th century, i.e. in or about the year 1901, and it was brought by foreigners from Europe, who planted the Nipa Palm as a decorative plant, which was also believed to be capable of checking coastal erosion. It is also known as and called the mangrove palm, as it thrives in the brackish waters of the mangrove forest. It is seen as an invasive species of plant life, as it actually does suppress other plant life, particularly the mangrove tree (Rhisophora), which we call “angala”, and which has been found to be particularly useful for a great variety of purposes. In areas where the Nipa Palm thrives, it has virtually eradicated the angala mangrove tree, and this phenomenon has in turn resulted in the depiction of other aquatic life, SUCN as fish, crayfish, crabs, periwinkles, etc. which thrive in our mangrove swamps and actually depend on the angula mangrove tree for breeding and sustenance.

While the Nipa Palm is virtually of no beneficial us~ to the communities of the Niger Delta and this is perhaps because we lack the resources and the technology to carry out detailed research into the plant, and it ascertain whether it can be put to beneficial use, some mangrove swamp dwellers in south-east Asia have been able to devise ways and means of tapping the Nipa Palm. In the process, they have been able to extract vast quantities of its sugar-rich sap, which is used to make wine and vinegar, while the leaves, fruits, stems and fibre derived from the Nipa Palm are used for a variety of other useful purposes.

Recent research into the sugar-rich sap of the Nipa Palm, and the relatively high yield which it produces, has shown that ethanol can be produced relatively cheaply from a fermentation process, such that 15,000 to 20,000 liters of ethanol can be produced from the plant on an area of one hectare compared with sugarcane, which yields 5,000 to 8,000 liters per hactare, or corn, which yields 2,000 liters per hectare. this is quite a remarkable discovery, As Rsli Ghazali, a municipal chief in Perak, Malaysia, has stated, the production from ethano1 from 110,000 hectares of Nipa palm, would be enough to satisfy the world’s current ethanol demand.

Ethanol is one of the biofuels now in use for the propulsion of automobile and other engines, which ordinarily use petrol, diesel and other fuels produced from crude oil. Ethanol is said to be an environmentally-friendly fuel, as it does not emit the gases and other chemical products which produce the Green House effect that has contributed to global warming, as does petrol. Ethanol is also said to be cheaper than petrol, and so its economic potential is considered to be quite high.

Nipa palm for the production of ethanol
It is curious that one of the aims and objectives of the Harold J, R. Dappa-Biriye Foundation is to embark on Scientific Research that would draw attention to the peculiar problems of the wetlands of the Niger Delta with particular emphasis on the threats to the mangrove, by the colonization of the same by the Nipa Palm. As a matter of fact, the Foundation appears to have already embarked on a mission to tackle the Nipa Palm, and, halt its advance, and, if possible, to weed out the Nipa Palm from our Maters and swamp forests. Now, an issue of interesting dimensions has been raised, and that is whether the Nipa Palm can be put to beneficial use, e.g. for the production of ethanol? It seems to me that this new position appeal’s to admit the futility of the effort to eradicate the Nipa Palm in the Niger Delta. It is always good to face reality, but can we truly say that we have exhausted our research into the matter? Is it truly possible to eradicate the Nipa Palm from the Niger Della?

If not, should we now embark on the mass cultivation of the Nipa Palm and utilize the sap thereof in the production of ethanol? Are we really satisfied that ethanol will be that viable as an alternative to petrol and petroleum products? Can we produce enough ethanol to replace petrol and other petroleum products as the fuel for the propulsion of our automobile and other engines?

These are very serious issues, and it seems to me that they call more detailed research, study and analysis. All too often, we tend to adopt the results of research work done by others, which research work did not take into any account our own peculiar circumstances, needs and wants; but the peculiar circumstances of the researchers and their own environments, needs and wants. May I therefore say that the matter should be referred to appropriate quarters, and I believe that the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Energy, and the relevant research agencies and institutions of Government should take the same up. And need I add, that government should take the necessary provisions for such research work to be meaningfully carried on.

Niger Delta still in the limelight
It is commendable that the Harold J. R. Dappa-Biriye Foundation has; again identified the fact, the truism, that the Niger Delta, with its abundant natural resources, will forever continue to remain in the limelight. The discussion now taking place about the Nipa Palm again underscores the point that the Niger Delta is truly blessed, and that all efforts must be geared towards the proper harnessing and utilization of the abundant natural resources in the area. The theme of this Second Memorial Lecture is HARNESSING EMERGING Ethno-political trends in Nigeria’s democracy, and this is quite apt and topical, especially because of what we have seen in recent times. As 1 have asked at several other fora, why is it that the Niger Delta, with all its abundant natural resources, still remains the least developed area of Nigeria. The answer, to me, and indeed to most of us, is that the Government and Peoples of Nigeria have continued to neglect the area, in terms of its development needs, while at the same time they have continued to concentrate their efforts on tapping the natural resources of the area, the proceeds of which ends up partly in the Federation account, and partly in the vaults of foreign banks which keep accounts for some greedy Nigerians and their collaborators.

I am satisfied that most Nigerians have become fully sensitized about the plight of the Niger Delta, and are prepared to join the struggle for a better deal for the peoples of the area, but then, those who hold the instruments of Government have failed to deliver on their promises. I say again that problems of the Niger Delta can only be solved by Good Governance”, from the Federal Government the governments of the Niger Delta States and the Local Governments of the States in the Niger Delta And I must refer them to Chapter II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which deals with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.

I am sure that most of you read THIS DAY of Tuesday, February, 20, 2007, which bore the screaming headline: Niger Delta Governments have failed. In the story, credited to the British High Commissioner, H.E. Richard Grozney, the lingering crisis in the Niger Delta was a reflection of the lack of confidence which the people of the region/area had in their leaders, and the failure of Government to address their needs. As stated by the High Commissioner, the Local and States Governments ill the four core Niger Delta Sates of Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa Iborn, have not been able to convince the people that Government meant well for them, in spite of derivation fund to them. Mr Grozney, it was said, stressed that so much money was being derived from the Niger Delta areas, and opined that the people should feel the impact. He therefore charged Local and States’ Governments in the core Niger Delta region to convince the people that they will gain from, democracy. When this confidence is restored, he further opined, the bad boys will be squeezed out. POINT as we used to say at Students’ Parliament in my days at Great Ife.

May I also recall the debacle that arose, during the National Political Forum

Conference of 2006, when some of our fellow countrymen from the Northern States of Nigeria, in answer to the demand of the South-South States for 50% Derivation Allocation, that the Governors of the South-South States should show what they had done with the funds previously allocated to them under the 13% Derivation formula. While we all rose in stout defence of our Governors, mostly because we felt that their detractors had no locus standi on the matter, my further reflections convinced me that they indeed had a point. And so, it is the responsibility for all of us, as citizens of Nigeria and indigents of the Niger Delta States, to ask the pertinent question - WHAT HAVE OUR GOVERNMENTS DONE WITH OUR MONEY?

It seems that we have been too complacent, too negligent in the entire circumstances of the matter. It is not only our right, but also our entitlement, to ensure that the funds allocated to our States and 1.09al Governments, and indeed the funds internally generated by our States and Local Governments, are judiciously utilized and applied for the good of all of us. We must all say NO! and NEVEER, AGAIN!, if we see that our common patrimony is being squandered in projects’ that have no positive impact in the good and welfare of our peoples, or on useless and futile pursuits of self-aggrandizing political power. As the cliche goes, MAN NO GO DEY FOR WATER, SOAP DE ENTER HIM EYE.

And so, as we approach the forthcoming General Elections, may we do all that we humanly can to ensure that the persons whom we elect into political offices, at all levels, are those who truly love their people and their States and Local Government, those who have honest and genuine intentions to serve their people, and those who accepted that the development of the Niger Delta is our primary responsibility as indigenes of the area.

May I again thank the Harold J. R. Dappa-Briye Foundation for this opportunity to speak. My message is that in our participation in the political development of Nigeria, and the States and Loral Governments thereof, we must also look at the matter of harnessing the abundant natural resources of our lands and waters, and for us in the Niger Delta, let us do all that can to ensure that we truly derive the of the abundant natural of our area of the federation of Nigeria, and that we utilize the same for the common good of all of us. This we can do, by ensuring that our States and Local Government Areas, and indeed our peoples, are developed, not only for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of our succeeding generations.

Thank you for your kind attention, and may God bless us all. Amen"


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