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    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

U.S. universities teaming up to build 90% biodegradable car

Earlier we reported that advances in biotech, materials sciences and biofuels may soon make it possible to manufacture cars entirely made out of bio-based products: durable bioplastic fuel lines, car seat foams, body panels, structural components, interior parts and tires have already been developed that consist almost exclusively of bio-degradable, renewable, plant-based materials and no longer of petroleum (earlier post, and here, here and here). Fill such a car up with biofuels and bio-lubricants (earlier post), and we have a genuinely environmentally friendly vehicle.

Even though the vision is ambitious, Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development (OARDC) and the University of Akron’s Goodyear Polymer Center are teaming up to explore a potential research partnership for the development of such an "Agri-Car".

The concept was initially conceived by Seeds of Opportunity, a Wooster-area group of business and other community leaders concerned about economic development prospects for the region. "Agriculture and polymers represent Ohio’s two largest business sectors," OARDC Director Steve Slack said. "It makes sense for us to explore initiatives that leverage these strengths. Agri-Car is an exciting concept that has this capability." Other groups that have expressed interest in exploring this concept are Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR), Tsinghua University in Beijing, and China’s Geely Automotive Group.

The idea is to create a diverse working group to leverage resources, knowledge and ongoing research projects that could help assemble the pieces required to turn the Agri-Car concept into a circulating reality. Such interaction, Slack said, is crucial to see beyond research and industry boundaries and realize that agriculture, biotechnology, polymers and the automotive world indeed have much to offer to each other.

The concept would broadly have the following characteristics:
  • a mid-size, lighter, safe, efficient, inexpensive car that would be 90 percent biodegradable
  • be approximately 1,000 pounds lighter that a vehicle its size
  • a fuel efficiency of at least 70-80 mpg
Plant-based components would include:
  • malleable carbon or bio-polymer for the body
  • bio-polymers, advanced sensors and displays for the dash
  • new carbon materials for the drive train
  • polymers and fabrics derived from renewable feedstocks for the interior and trim
  • alternative natural sources of rubber for the tires
  • crops and other biomass for lubricants and fuel, including ethanol and methane
OARDC currently has research programs and projects that could provide some of the feedstocks and energy sources the Agri-Car would need. Among them:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

—The Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC): Established through an $11.5 million Third Frontier award, OBIC is linking agricultural technologies with chemical-conversion and advanced-materials technologies to create specialty industrial compounds like plastics, paints, lubricants and solvents from crops such as soybeans and corn.

—The Biomass-to-Energy Project: Also the recipient of a Third Frontier award, this project involves taking animal manure, food-processing leftovers, crops and other biomass resources and converting them to clean, renewable energy. This research brings together two different technologies — biodigesters, which turn waste into biogas, and fuel cells, which can use biogas and even vegetable oils to generate energy.

—Natural Rubber Research: This study aims to develop a species of dandelion from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as an American-grown source of natural rubber.

Additional resources OARDC brings to the table include the Food and Agricultural Technology Commercialization and Economic Development Program (ATECH) and the proposed BioHio Research Park, which is expected to host startup companies partnering university research and entrepreneurial efforts.

Seeds of Opportunity chairman Harry Featherstone, retired CEO of worldwide pneumatic telescoping masts and lighting manufacturer Will-Burt Co., and former operations manager and head of materials for top U.S. automakers Ford and GM. says that "the development of this vehicle would not only be significant for the value of the car itself, and what it would mean to our societies and the world, but also for the progress and innovation sure to be realized in the development of products and processes necessary to produce the car."

Picture: Mercedez-Benz RECY concept, largely made of bio-degradable parts and fueled by biodiesel - presented at the Los Angeles Auto Show's Design Challenge.


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