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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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Sunday, April 15, 2007

US wood pellet industry eyes exports to EU

A North American wood pellet race has begun, with its eyes on exports to Europe. There regulations designed to combat global climate change have created incentives for power companies to boost their use of biomass. Europe already consumes nearly 8 million tons of wood pellets a year, to run factories and power plants (see the International Energy Agency's Bioenergy Task 32 on biomass co-firing with coal), and to heat entire neighborhoods (combined heat-and-power biomass systems with district heating). In 2005, the EU witnessed a 16% growth of electricity produced from biomass (earlier post). This continued growth is leading entrepreneurs in timber-growing regions from Florida to Maine and Canada to build or expand pellet mills.

Biofuel pellets are made by compressing sawdust and other dried wood waste, such as forest thinnings, into a dense, high-combustion fuel source. The fuel can then be used as an alternative to or in combination with coal in utility-scale power plants, as a dedicated fuel source in smaller but highly efficient CHP plants, or as an alternative to heating oil used by households who burn pellets in stoves. Woody biomass, converted into fuel briquettes or pellets, is rapidly becoming competitive with fossil fuels, even with coal. Some analysts have noticed that this type of solid biofuel is actually already less costly than coal in many places in Europe (earlier post). Even without the climate change incentives, the biofuel is set to capture an ever larger market share. But there are still several hurdles to be taken before a true transatlantic trade can emerge. Infrastructures must be build, logistical chains established, market instruments created.

However, the risks don't prevent America's most North-Eastern state, forest-rich Maine, to tap into the emerging opportunity. Developers there are planning and building manufacturing plants that together could produce 1 million tons or more of wood pellets a year. Maine mills in Corinth and Athens are part of the rush. State officials see pellet exports as a way to generate new jobs and create opportunities to revive a forest-products industry that's been losing its traditional manufacturing base:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"It's just a perfect marriage," says John Richardson, the state's new economic development commissioner. As papermaking shrinks in Maine, officials are encouraging investment in innovative, niche enterprises, such as wood pellets.

Three weeks ago, Richardson and Gov. John Baldacci attended the grand opening of the Corinth mill, which is located in an area that qualifies for state tax subsidies.
But like other energy and trade ventures, wood pellets are a risky business.
A warm winter in Europe this year hurt sales for existing producers. And it's still too early to say whether Maine plants can make and transport the pellets economically, and who will develop the port-side storage and loading systems needed for export.

The larger Maine plant is Corinth Wood Pellets LLC. The venture represents $4 million in private investment. A dozen or so workers were ironing out some equipment kinks last week, to ramp up production. Corinth Wood Pellets has ambitious plans to become one of the nation's largest pellet makers, producing over 300,000 tons a year. Half the production will be sold domestically, the other half in Europe, according to Ken Eldredge, the company's president and co-owner.

Eldredge declined to discuss efforts to secure deals in Europe, but said he's working with Sprague Energy, which has cargo piers at Portland and Searsport. Corinth Wood Pellets will benefit by being located in a Pine Tree Development Zone. That makes it eligible for sales tax exemptions and refunds that lower the cost of business, in exchange for creating jobs in a rural area.

Another mill, Maine Wood Pellets Co., has been proposed at the site of former biomass power generator in Athens. It's a partnership between Linkletter & Sons, a local logging firm, and Maine Biomass Fuels of Belmont. The plant would process some of the waste wood generated by Linkletter & Sons. The partners want the Athens plant to be operating this summer, according to recent media reports, but say they need state and local grants to get going. It's not clear how many tons the plant would produce or the status of the project.

One way to consider the challenges facing Maine's nascent pellet industry is to look at some of its competition. Energex Pellet Fuel Inc. currently bills itself as North America's largest pellet fuel maker, producing 200,000 tons a year from plants in Quebec and Pennsylvania. That output will easily be exceeded by a $100 million plant in Jackson County, Fla. Green Circle Bio Energy, owned by a Swedish company, is building what it calls the largest wood pellet plant in the world, capable of producing 560,000 tons a year. Much of it will be sent to Europe.

Another venture that's also calling itself the world's largest pellet plant, Dixie Pellets LLC, is under way near Selma, Ala. European-bound pellets will be barged down the Alabama River and shipped out of Mobile.

Near Baxley, Ga., Fram Renewable Fuels is building a 145,000-ton- a-year pellet plant, called Appling County Pellets LLC. It's all headed to Europe, shipping through Savannah and Brunswick, Ga. "There aren't too many of us exporting wood pellets successfully, but a lot of us are trying," said John Colquitt, Fram's president.

Colquitt made European contacts while operating a pellet mill outside Halifax, N.S. The overseas market is poised to grow because of a directive in the European Union linked to the Kyoto Protocol, which requires participating countries to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. One strategy is to mix in wood pellets at coal-burning power plants.

But the market can be fickle. A warm winter in Europe cut demand for all heating fuels, which hurt sales. "There has been a real shaking out this spring," he said. "Some companies couldn't weather the storm."

Europeans are paying roughly $150 a ton wholesale for pellets landed there, Colquitt said. That's attractive, but exporters need to factor in the cost of wood supply, ocean freight, exchange rates and storage. Those issues are being studied carefully by Armand Demers, the forest products director at Sprague Energy. He's been working with Ken Eldredge at Corinth Wood Pellets.

Corinth isn't near a rail line, so pellets would have to be trucked to Portland or Searsport. Pellets must stay bone dry, so they need special storage. And they degrade with heavy handling, so a conveyor system must be installed. Moving and storing wood pellets will require a multimillion-dollar investment, Demers said. "The challenge is going to be how to get them from the mill to Europe and not make it uncompetitive," he said.

Charles Niebling hasn't been able to make the numbers add up. Niebling is the procurement and sales manager at New England Wood Pellets LLC in Jaffrey, N.H., which currently calls itself the nation's largest pellet maker. The nine-year old mill turns out 75,000 tons a year. The company also bags 80,000 tons a year of pellets shipped by rail from British Columbia, and is building a 100,000-ton plant in Schuyler, N.Y.

Niebling has been selling bagged pellets for home heating in Europe, but saw sales drop this winter. And he hasn't been able to figure out an economic way to send bulk shipments to Europe, noting that American pellet makers also are competing with established companies in Scandinavia, Germany and Russia.

Niebling laments that Americans don't burn more wood pellets. The only sizable commercial burner he's aware of in New England is a new manufacturing and office building in Hinesburg, Vt., owned by wind energy equipment maker NRG Systems. That pellet boiler burns roughly 30 tons a year, he said.

Increased demand for pellets in American homes and businesses might boost supply and cut prices, said Matt Boucher, store manager at Yerxa's Lawn & Garden in South Portland. The company has a subsidiary that sells the Harman Stove Co. pellet stoves. One popular model, which is thermostatically controlled and can keep an average house warm for 24 hours with 40 pounds of pellets, sells from $2,695. Boucher was charging $250 a ton for pellets this year, up from $190 the previous winter. More domestic supply could drive prices back into the $200-a-ton range, he said, and that would make pellets more competitive with oil heat.

By Niebling's estimate, if only 5 percent of the oil-fired boilers in New England were replaced by pellet burners, a 300,000-ton-a-year plant could sell all its output at home. But in the absence of aggressive policies to displace oil in the United States, it's not surprising that wood pellet developers see opportunity in Europe. "We're becoming a Third World nation, exporting our renewable resources," Niebling said.

More information:

Maine Today: Pellet power, April 15, 2007.
The US Pellet Heat Institute.
Biopact: Solid biomass production for energy in EU increases markedly - December 21, 2006
Biopact: Swedish group to build 550,000 ton biomass pellet plant in Florida for exports to Europe - February 04, 2007
Biopact: South African company to produce biomass pellets for exports to Europe - February 02, 2007
International Energy Agency, Bioenergy Tast 32 on Biomass Combustion and Co-firing.


rufus said...

Well, the good news is, the Secular Trend for Heating Oil is definitely UP.

That having been said, however, it seems almost unarguable that they are in need of one more step in the Value Added Process. In a year or two they'll be running that stuff through a fluidized-bed reactor, and coming out with something much more value.

The Europeans (and Americans, too) are trying to squeeze the last droop out of those old boilers, but they're going to have to move on pretty danged soon. The New, developing technologies are just too compelling.

8:06 PM  
rufus said...

THIS seems to be where these folks gotta go.

12:16 AM  
rufus said...

Intermediate Step.

3:15 AM  

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