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    The market trend to heavier, more powerful hybrids is eroding the fuel consumption advantage of hybrid technology, according to a study done by researchers at the University of British Columbia. GreenCarCongress - March 30, 2007.

    Hungarian privately-owned bio-ethanol project firm Mabio is planning to complete an €80-85 million ethanol plant in Southeast Hungary's Csabacsud by end-2008. Onet/Interfax - March 29, 2007.

    Energy and engineering group Abengoa announces it has applied for planning permission to build a bioethanol plant in north-east England with a capacity of about 400,000 tonnes a year. Reuters - March 29, 2007.

    The second European Summer School on Renewable Motor Fuels will be held in Warsaw, Poland, from 29 to 31 August 2007. The goal of the event is to disseminate the knowledge generated within the EU-funded RENEW (Renewable Fuels for Advanced Powertrains) project and present it to the European academic audience and stakeholders. Topics on the agenda include generation of synthetic gas from biomass and gas cleaning; transport fuel synthesis from synthetic gas; biofuel use in different motors; biomass potentials, supply and logistics, and technology, cost and life-cycle assessment of BtL pathways. Cordis News - March 27, 2007.

    Green Swedes want even more renewables, according to a study from Gothenburg University. Support for hydroelectricity and biofuels has increased, whereas three-quarters of people want Sweden to concentrate more on wind and solar too. Swedes still back the nuclear phase-out plans. The country is Europe's largest ethanol user. It imports 75% of the biofuel from Brazil. Sveriges Radio International - March 27, 2007.

    Fiat will launch its Brazilian-built flex-fuel Uno in South Africa later this year. The flex-fuel Uno, which can run on gasoline, ethanol or any combination of the two fuels, was displayed at the Durban Auto Show, and is set to become popular as South Africa enters the ethanol era. Automotive World - March 27, 2007.

    Siemens Power Generation (PG) is to supply two steam turbine gensets to a biomass-fired plant in Três Lagoas, 600 kilometers northwest of São Paulo. The order, valued at €22 million, was placed by the Brazilian company Pöyry Empreendimentos, part of VCP (Votorantim Celulose e Papel), one of the biggest cellulose producers in the Americas. PRDomain - March 25, 2007.

    Asia’s demand for oil will nearly double over the next 25 years and will account for 85% of the increased demand in 2007, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) officials forecast yesterday at a Bangkok-hosted energy conference. Daily Times - March 24, 2007.

    Portugal's government expects total investment in biomass energy will reach €500 million in 2012, when its target of 250MW capacity is reached. By that date, biomass will reduce 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. By 2010, biomass will represent 5% of the country's energy production. Forbes - March 22, 2007.

    The Scottish Executive has announced a biomass action plan for Scotland, through which dozens of green energy projects across the region are set to benefit from an additional £3 million of funding. The plan includes greater use of the forestry and agriculture sectors, together with grant support to encourage greater use of biomass products. Energy Business Review Online - March 21, 2007.

    The U.S. Dep't of Agriculture's Forest Service has selected 26 small businesses and community groups to receive US$6.2 million in grants from for the development of innovative uses for woody biomass. American Agriculturalist - March 21, 2007.

    Three universities, a government laboratory, and several companies are joining forces in Colorado to create what organizers hope will be a major player in the emerging field of converting biomass into fuels and other products. The Colorado Center for Biorefining & Biofuels, or C2B2, combines the biofuels and biorefining expertise of the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines, and the Colorado-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Founding corporate members include Dow Chemical, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell. C&EN - March 20, 2007.

    The city of Rome has announced plans to run its public bus fleet on a fuel mix of 20 per cent biodiesel. The city council has signed an accord that would see its 2800 buses switch to the blended fuel in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. A trial of 200 buses, if successful, would see the entire fleet running on the biofuel mix by the end of 2008. Estimates put the annual emission savings at 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. CarbonPositive - March 19, 2007.

    CODON (Dutch Biotech Study Association) organises a symposium on the 'Biobased Economy' in Wageningen, Netherlands, home of one of Europe's largest agricultural universities. In a biobased economy, chemistry companies and other non-food enterprises primarily use renewable materials and biomass as their resources, instead of petroleum. The Netherlands has the ambition to have 30% of all used materials biobased, by 2030. FoodHolland - March 19, 2007.

    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.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Biofuels industry creates large number of jobs for lab workers

The nascent biofuels sector is not only reviving the rural economy across the world, bringing new opportunities to farmers, it is also resulting in a large number of new jobs for laboratory workers, engineers, researchers, and trained employees. An illustration comes from Iowa, the center of the U.S. biofuels industry.

Instructor Donald Heck, who coordinates the 'Biotechnology and Biofuels Technology' program Iowa Central Community College teaches students how biodiesel and ethanol are made and learn testing them for temperature, reaction time and other factors.

"There is a huge need for trained employees in the biofuels industry. Everywhere I go, people in the industry are saying to me, 'Give me your students. I need them all,'" says Heck.

Located in the bulls-eye of Iowa's ethanol and biodiesel plants, Iowa Central's Biofuels Technology Degree Program began last fall. Training ethanol and biodiesel plant workers is a priority, industry officials say, and having a pool of lab-savvy workers will support the three biorefineries nearby.

A similar program is getting off the ground at Ellsworth Community College near Iowa Falls, where an ethanol plant and a biodiesel plant are operating. What distinguishes the Iowa Central biofuels program is a proposal to establish a biofuels testing lab for state and national regulators.

Iowa Central's program began 18 months ago, when Heck came from Iowa State University, where he did post-doctoral research and taught for five years. "We're trying to bring the same level of ambition and commitment to the sciences here that we had at Iowa State. I'm going to push them to it" Heck says:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Alicia Clancy, communications specialist for the Renewable Energy Group in Ralston - a biodiesel producer, marketer and plant developer - said biodiesel plants employ about 30 workers, from general manager on down. "The Iowa Central program will really help people so they can hit the ground running when they are hired," Clancy said.

Biofuels plant employee salaries can start at $35,000 a year, Heck said. Bob Paxton, president of Iowa Central Community College, said the biofuels industry will create 900 jobs in the next year in the Midwest.

"Our mission is to provide the plants with trained workers for these jobs," he said. "I knew there would be demand for a program to train employees of ethanol and biodiesel plants as they are springing up in Iowa."

Farmer Bill Horan of Rockwell City, a director of several Renewable Energy Group-affiliated biodiesel plants, pointed to tight competition for trained biofuels employees. "Our plants are training employees and then the employees are getting stolen by other companies," he said.

Clancy and Horan said the biofuels program has given Iowa Central a leg up in its effort to establish a fuel testing lab.

"It's an essential element to give people confidence that they can run their engines safely," Clancy said.

Horan said that delays in getting test results back to the plants is costing money.

"We are sending our samples out of state and waiting three weeks for results," Horan said. "If we can have our test results back in 24 hours, that's millions and millions and millions of dollars that can be saved."

Now, samples of Iowa biofuels are shipped by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to the University of Missouri for testing.

Matt Caswell, public affairs director for the Iowa Soybean Association, said Iowa Central's testing lab has impressed biodiesel industry leaders.

"It's time for Iowa to get serious about fuel testing," Caswell said. "We need to leverage what the Iowa Central lab has now and take them to the next level."

Caswell said $250,000 is being sought from the Iowa Power Fund, if it is approved by the Legislature this year.

The state money will be matched by $1 million in federal funds, Caswell said, to help finance the fuel testing lab.

"We're right in the middle of the renewable energy heartland," he said. "We want to exploit what's at Iowa Central right now because we don't have time to wait for it. We needed it yesterday."

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey hasn't endorsed a specific site, but he does want a biofuels testing lab in Iowa.

"At this time, multiple facilities are still under consideration for funding, and the department is willing to work with the Legislature on moving forward through this process," Northey said.

James Kersten, associate vice president of development and government relations at Iowa Central, said the college's board is expected to seek voter approval in June to raise money, in part, for a Bioscience Building and Training Center that would include a biofuels testing lab on the Fort Dodge campus.

The testing lab could be another training ground for Iowa Central students, Kersten said.

Back in the lab, Heck watched the students run a variety of tests on the biodiesel they made from soy, coconut, peanut and other oils.

Heck answered a question or two and directed students to lab equipment they needed, but he stayed out of their way as they ran their tests.

"They figure out how they are going to do the experiments, so they are engaged in the thinking process," Heck said. "They can do it. They just need someone to teach them."

Paxton said Heck's commitment to the biofuels program is one of the reasons it has progressed so far so fast.

"Don has a passion for this," Paxton said. "For rural Iowa, this is our opportunity for economic growth. Hopefully, as those plants evolve, our students will be able to evolve with them."

Image: Andrew Harris, 19, of Perry drains off a biodiesel sample during a class in the biofuels program at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge. Graduates are highly sought after because of the rapid growth of the industry and a shortage of trained employees. Don Heck runs the two-year biofuels program. Credit: Justin Hayworth/Register Photos


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