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    Vietnam has won the prestigious EU-sponsored Energy Globe award for 2006 for a community biogas program, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development announced. ThanhNien News - April 13, 2007.

    Given unstable fossil fuel prices and their negative effects on the economy, Tanzania envisages large-scale agriculture of energy crops Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Christopher Chiza has said. A 600 hectare jatropha seed production effort is underway, with the seeds expected to be distributed to farmers during the 2009/2010 growing season. Daily News (Dar es Salaam) - April 12, 2007.

    Renault has announced it will launch a flex-fuel version of its Logan in Brazil in July. Brazilian autosales rose 28% to 1,834,581 in 2006 from 2004. GreenCarCongress - April 12, 2007.

    Chevron and Weyerhouser, one of the largest forest products companies, are joining forces to research next generation biofuels. The companies will focus on developing technology that can transform wood fiber and other nonfood sources of cellulose into economical, clean-burning biofuels for cars and trucks. PRNewswire - April 12, 2007.

    BioConversion Blog's C. Scott Miller discusses the publication of 'The BioTown Source Book', which offers a very accessible introduction to the many different bioconversion technologies currently driving the bioenergy sector. BioConversion Blog - April 11, 2007.

    China's State Forestry Administration (SFA) and the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import & Export Corp., Ltd. (COFCO) have signed a framework agreement over plans to cooperatively develop forest bioenergy resources, COFCO announced on its web site. Interfax China - April 11, 2007.

    The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of El Salvador is speeding up writing the country's biofuels law in order to take advantage of the US-Brazil cooperation agreement which identified the country as one where projects can be launched fairly quickly. The bill is expected to be presented to parliament in the coming weeks. El Porvenir - April 11, 2007.

    ConocoPhillips will establish an eight-year, $22.5 million research program at Iowa State University dedicated to developing technologies that produce biofuels. The grant is part of ConocoPhillips' plan to create joint research programs with major universities to produce viable solutions to diversify America's energy sources. Iowa State University - April 11, 2007.

    Interstate Power and Light has decided to utilize super-critical pulverized coal boiler technology at its large (600MW) new generation facility planned for Marshalltown, Iowa. The plant is designed to co-fire biomass and has a cogeneration component. The investment tops US$1billion. PRNewswire - April 10, 2007.

    One of India's largest sugar companies, the Birla group will invest 8 billion rupees (US$187 million) to expand sugar and biofuel ethanol output and produce renewable electricity from bagasse, to generate more revenue streams from its sugar business. Reuters India - April 9, 2007.

    An Iranian firm, Mashal Khazar Darya, is to build a cellulosic ethanol plant that will utilise switchgrass as its feedstock at a site it owns in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The investment is estimated to be worth €112/US$150 million. The plant's capacity will be 378 million liters (100 million gallons), supplied by switchgrass grown on 4400 hectares of land. PressTv (Iran) - April 9, 2007.

    The Africa Power & Electricity Congress and Exhibition, to take place from 16 - 20 April 2007, in the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa, will focus on bioenergy and biofuels. The Statesman - April 7, 2007.

    Petrobras and Petroecuador have signed a joint performance MOU for a technical, economic and legal viability study to develop joint projects in biofuel production and distribution in Ecuador. The project includes possible joint Petroecuador and Petrobras investments, in addition to qualifying the Ecuadorian staff that is directly involved in biofuel-related activities with the exchange of professionals and technical training. PetroBras - April 5, 2007.

    The Société de Transport de Montréal is to buy 8 biodiesel-electric hybrid buses that will use 20% less fuel and cut 330 tons of GHG emissions per annum. Courrier Ahuntsic - April 3, 2007.

    Thailand mandates B2, a mixture of 2% biodiesel and 98% diesel. According to Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand, the mandate comes into effect by April next year. Bangkok Post - April 3, 2007.

    In what is described as a defeat for the Bush administration, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled [*.pdf] today that environmental officials have the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that spur global warming. By a 5-4 vote, the nation's highest court told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions from new cars and trucks that contribute to climate change. Reuters - April 2, 2007.

    Goldman Sachs estimates that, in the absence of current trade barriers, Latin America could supply all the ethanol required in the US and Europe at a cost of $45 per barrel – just over half the cost of US-made ethanol. EuroToday - April 2, 2007.

    The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative signed a long-term purchase power agreement last week with Green Energy Team, LLC. The 20-year agreement enables KIUC to purchase power from Green Energy's proposed 6.4 megawatt biomass-to-energy facility, which will use agricultural waste to generate power. Honolulu Advertiser - April 2, 2007.

    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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Monday, April 16, 2007

Brazilian biofuels update

Brazil has seen several developments in its biofuels sector recently. First of all, there was the announcement by Petrobras that it may invest in a fleet of dedicated ethanol tankers to export its rapidly growing output (earlier post). Today, Latin American leaders convene for a regional energy summit hosted by Venezuela, in which biofuels will take center stage. In another development, Brazil's largest ethanol producer, Cosan, announced it will be investing a massive US$1.7 billion over the coming four years to expand production and to make it more efficient. Finally, of all new jobs created during the first semester of this year in the industrial sector in São Paulo state - which is home to the Southern hemisphere's largest and most industrialised city - 74% were generated by the biofuels sector.

Cosan steps up investments
Brazil's leading sugar and ethanol producer announces [*Portuguese] it will invest US$1.7 billion in the next four years in expanding its production, in diversifying biofuel related activities, and in optimising the entire production chain.

The company, whose 17 ethanol plants are all located in the São Paulo state, intends to start new acitivities in other regions, most notably in the central state of Goiás. "Cosan's growth strategy is not exclusively aimed at taking over existing plants", says Paulo Diniz, CFO, even though this is what the company had been doing most.

The US$1.7 billion can be broken down as follows:
  • new plants: an investment of US$ 650 million will result in the construction of three factories with a capacity to crush 3.3 million tons of cane, in the municipalities of Montividiu, Jataí and Paraúna, in Goiás. The first of these is expected to come online in 2009. Diniz further announced Cosan is looking at projects in the Centre-West and the poorer and more arid Nordeste, as well as into diversifying its activities and enter fuel mixing and trading of biofuels.
  • process optimisation: another focus of Cosan's investment is the optimisation of the production chain. The mechanisation of cane harvesting will recieve an investment of US$ 88 million; US$40 million will be dedicated to augmenting the productivity of sugarcane production by increased agronomic interventions and innovations, automatisation of harvesting, crushing and bioconversion processes. This will result in higher overall productivity and efficiency, that may save the company some US$ 177 million by 2010.
  • increasing capacity of existing plants: A total of US$ 501 million will go into expanding the capacity of Cosan's 17 sugar plants, the output of which will increase from 40 million tons per year, to 50.6 million tons by 2012.
  • co-generation: new co-generation technologies and capacity - based on utilising processing residues such as bagasse - receives a fresh input of US$448 million. This will boost Cosan's co-generation capacity to 390 megawatts, compared to Cosan's current 163MW. Electricity produced from bagasse is carbon neutral and renewable. This power is used to run the ethanol and sugar plants, but the excess is fed into the grid and sold. Cosan expects an additional return of US$174 million per year from the sales of this green electricity.
Ethanol and the Energy Summit
President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is organising the first South American Energy Summit on la Isla Margarita today, where heads of state and energy ministers from Argentina, Brasil, Guyana, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Perú, Suriname and Uruguay gather to discuss energy security, biofuels, the integration of a region-wide natural gas grid, the creation of a 'gas OPEC', and the establishment of the Banco del Sur, a new development bank that should become an alternative to Washington-backed lenders such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Ahead of the summit, Marco Aurelio Garcia, a special aide to President Lula wrote in Venezuelan newspapers that "Brazil's energy options should not be converted into a platform for political-ideological discussion as though there were two opposing camps in the Americas." Chavez now denies any conflict with Lula and stresses his criticism is aimed at the US. Garcia in turn said the Brazilian leader is coming to the summit on Venezuela's Margarita Island "in peace and love," to promote ethanol "not as an ideological fuel, but simply a fuel." Meanwhile, the Brazilian government said in a statement that one key aim of this week's talks is to deepen dialogue toward regional integration begun at a January meeting of the Mercosur trade bloc in Rio de Janeiro. Those talks were marked by public spats over how best to move toward integration.

The South American leaders - most of who are situated on the political left - are all looking at biofuel production themselves. The question is not so much whether biofuels should be promoted, but rather in which kind of development context they should be placed.

Despite Chavez's criticisms of promoting ethanol as a substitute for gasoline, Venezuela still plans to expand its own ethanol production for use as a fuel additive. Venezuela's has launched a €665 million/US$900 million plan to this end, that envisions becoming self-sufficient in ethanol by 2012 by planting 300,000 hectares (740,000 acres) of sugar cane, cassava and rice and building up to 17 processing plants.

We keep an eye on the summit, and will report back as developments unfold.

Biofuels bring jobs - for low-skilled labor
According to the Federação das Indústrias do Estado do São Paulo (FIESP), the state of São Paulo generated [*Portuguese] some 57,000 new jobs in the industrial sector during the first semester of this year. The state is home to the city with the same name, a megalopolis of 20 million inhabitants, Brazil's largest and most industrialised city, and the larges megacity of the Southern Hemisphere.

Of these new jobs, 41,000 were directly generated by the biofuels sector, making it by far the fastest growing industrial segment. Without this sector, São Paulo's job growth amounted to 0.8%.

However, Paulo Francini, lead economist of the FIESP, notes that the growth in biofuels-related jobs is mainly due to increased demand for planting and harvesting cane. In short, most of the jobs are low-income, low-skill jobs for poor laborers, many of whom have no alternative employment opportunities.

This wraps up our Brazilian biofuels update.


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