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    A new market study by Frost & Sullivan Green Energy shows that the renewables industry in the EU is expanding at an extraordinary rate. Today biofuels and other renewables represent about 2.1 per cent of the EU's gross domestic product and account for 3.5 million jobs. The study forecasts that revenues from renewables in the world's largest economy are set to double, triple or increase even more over the next few years. Engineer Live - May 29, 2007.

    A project to evaluate barley’s potential in Canada’s rapidly evolving biofuels industry has received funding of $262,000 from the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI). Western Barley Growers Association [*.pdf] - May 27, 2007.

    PNOC-Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC), the biofuel unit of Philippine National Oil Company, is planning to undertake an initial public offering next year or in 2009 so it can have its own cash and no longer rely on its parent for funding of biofuels projects. Manila Bulletin - May 27, 2007.

    TMO Renewables Limited, a producer of ethanol from biomass, has licensed the ERGO bioinformatics software developed and maintained by Integrated Genomics. TMO will utilize the genome analysis tools for gene annotation, metabolic reconstruction and enzyme data-mining as well as comparative genomics. The platform will enable the company to further understand and exploit its thermophilic strains used for the conversion of biomass into fuel. CheckBiotech - May 25, 2007.

    Melbourne-based Plantic Technologies Ltd., a company that makes biodegradable plastics from plants, said 20 million pounds (€29/US$39 million) it raised by selling shares on London's AIM will help pay for its first production line in Europe. Plantic Technologies [*.pdf] - May 25, 2007.

    Shell Hydrogen LLC and Virent Energy Systems have announced a five-year joint development agreement to develop further and commercialize Virent's BioForming technology platform for the production of hydrogen from biomass. Virent Energy Systems [*.pdf] - May 24, 2007.

    Spanish energy and engineering group Abengoa will spend more than €1 billion (US$1.35 billion) over the next three years to boost its bioethanol production, Chairman Javier Salgado said on Tuesday. The firm is studying building four new plants in Europe and another four in the United States. Reuters - May 23, 2007.

    According to The Nikkei, Toyota is about to introduce flex-fuel cars in Brazil, at a time when 8 out of 10 new cars sold in the country are already flex fuel. Brazilians prefer ethanol because it is about half the price of gasoline. Forbes - May 22, 2007.

    Virgin Trains is conducting biodiesel tests with one of its diesel engines and will be running a Voyager train on a 20 percent biodiesel blend in the summer. Virgin Trains Media Room - May 22, 2007.

    Australian mining and earthmoving contractor Piacentini & Son will use biodiesel from South Perth's Australian Renewable Fuels across its entire fleet, with plans to purchase up to 8 million litres from the company in the next 12 months. Tests with B20 began in October 2006 and Piacentinis reports very positive results for economy, power and maintenance. Western Australia Business News - May 22, 2007.

    Malaysia's Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui announces he will head a delegation to the EU in June, "to counter European anti-palm oil activists on their own home ground". The South East Asian palm oil industry is seen by many European civil society organisations and policy makers as unsustainable and responsible for heavy deforestation. Malaysia Star - May 20, 2007.

    Paraguay and Brazil kick off a top-level seminar on biofuels, cooperation on which they see as 'strategic' from an energy security perspective. 'Biocombustiveis Paraguai-Brasil: Integração, Produção e Oportunidade de Negócios' is a top-level meeting bringing together the leaders of both countries as well as energy and agricultural experts. The aim is to internationalise the biofuels industry and to use it as a tool to strengthen regional integration and South-South cooperation. PanoramaBrasil [*Portuguese] - May 19, 2007.

    Portugal's Galp Energia SGPS and Petrobras SA have signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a biofuels joint venture. The joint venture will undertake technical and financial feasibility studies to set up a plant in Brazil to export biofuels to Portugal. Forbes - May 19, 2007.

    The Cypriot parliament has rejected an amendment by President Papadopoulos on the law regarding the use of biofuels that contain genetically modified substances. The amendment called for an alteration in the law that currently did not allow the import or use of biofuels that had been produced using GM substances, something that goes against a recent EU Directive on GMOs. Cyprus Mail - May 18, 2007.

    According to Salvador Rivas, the director for Non-Conventional Energy at the Dominican Republic's Industry and Commerce Ministry, a group of companies from Brazil wants to invest more than 100 million dollars to produce ethanol in the country, both for local consumption and export to the United States. Dominican Today - May 16, 2007.

    EWE AG, a German multi-service energy company, has started construction on a plant aimed at purifying biogas so that it can be fed into the natural gas grid. Before the end of the year, EWE AG will be selling the biogas to end users via its subsidiary EWE Naturwatt. Solarthemen [*German] - May 16, 2007.

    Scania will introduce an ethanol-fueled hybrid bus concept at the UITP public transport congress in Helsinki 21-24 May 2007. The full-size low-floor city bus is designed to cut fossil CO2 emissions by up to 90% when running on the ethanol blend and reduce fuel consumption by at least 25%. GreenCarCongress - May 16, 2007.

    A report by the NGO Christian Aid predicts there may be 1 billion climate refugees and migrants by 2050. It shows the effects of conflicts on populations in poor countries and draws parallels with the situation as it could develop because of climate change. Christian Aid - May 14, 2007.

    Dutch multinational oil group Rompetrol, also known as TRG, has entered the biofuel market in France in conjunction with its French subsidiary Dyneff. It hopes to equip approximately 30 filling stations to provide superethanol E85 distribution to French consumers by the end of 2007. Energy Business Review - May 13, 2007.

    A group of British organisations launches the National Forum on Bio-Methane as a Road Transport Fuel. Bio-methane or biogas is widely regarded as the cleanest of all transport fuels, even cleaner than hydrogen or electric vehicles. Several EU projects across the Union have shown its viability. The UK forum was lauched at the Naturally Gas conference on 1st May 2007 in Loughborough, which was hosted by Cenex in partnership with the NSCA and the Natural Gas Vehicle Association. NSCA - May 11, 2007.

    We reported earlier on Dynamotive and Tecna SA's initiative to build 6 bio-oil plants in the Argentinian province of Corrientes (here). Dynamotive has now officially confirmed this news. Dynamotive - May 11, 2007.

    Nigeria launches a national biofuels feasibility study that will look at the potential to link the agricultural sector to the automotive fuels sector. Tim Gbugu, project leader, said "if we are able to link agriculture, we will have large employment opportunity for the sustenance of this country, we have vast land that can be utilised". This Day Onlin (Lagos) - May 9, 2007.

    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva meets with the CEO of Portuguese energy company Galp Energia, which will sign a biofuel cooperation agreement with Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras. GP1 (*Portuguese) - May 9, 2007.

    The BBC has an interesting story on how biodiesel made from coconut oil is taking the pacific island of Bougainville by storm. Small refineries turn the oil into an affordable fuel that replaces costly imported petroleum products. BBC - May 8, 2007.

    Indian car manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra is set to launch its first B100-powered vehicles for commercial use by this year-end. The company is confident of fitting the new engines in all its existing models. Sify - May 8, 2007.

    The Biofuels Act of the Philippines has come into effect today. The law requires all oil firms in the country to blend 2% biodiesel (most often coconut-methyl ester) in their diesel products. AHN - May 7, 2007.

    Successful tests based on EU-criteria result in approval of 5 new maize hybrids that were developed as dedicated biogas crops [*German]. Veredlungsproduktion - May 6, 2007.

    With funding from the U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Innovation for Regional Economic Development (WIRED), Michigan State University intends to open a training facility dedicated to students and workers who want to start a career in the State's growing bioeconomy. Michigan State University - May 4, 2007.

    Researchers from the Texas A&M University have presented a "giant" sorghum variety for the production of ethanol. The crop is drought-tolerant and yields high amounts of ethanol. Texas A & M - May 3, 2007.

    C-Tran, the public transportation system serving Southwest Washington and parts of Portland, has converted its 97-bus fleet and other diesel vehicles to run on a blend of 20% biodiesel beginning 1 May from its current fleet-wide use of B5. Automotive World - May 3, 2007.

    The Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP) and France's largest research organisation, the CNRS, have signed a framework-agreement to cooperate on the development of new energy technologies, including research into biomass based fuels and products, as well as carbon capture and storage technologies. CNRS - April 30, 2007.

    One of India's largest state-owned bus companies, the Andra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation is to use biodiesel in one depot of each of the 23 districts of the state. The company operates some 22,000 buses that use 330 million liters of diesel per year. Times of India - April 30, 2007.

    Indian sugar producers face surpluses after a bumper harvest and low prices. Diverting excess sugar into the ethanol industry now becomes more attractive. India is the world's second largest sugar producer. NDTVProfit - April 30, 2007.

    Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet on Thursday signed a biofuel cooperation agreement designed to share Brazil's experience in ethanol production and help Chile develop biofuels and fuel which Lula seeks to promote in other countries. More info to follow. People's Daily Online - April 27, 2007.

    Italy's Benetton plans to build a €61 million wood processing and biomass pellet production factory Nagyatád (southwest Hungary). The plant will be powered by biogas. Budapest Sun - April 27, 2007.

    Cargill is to build an ethanol plant in the Magdeburger Börde, located on the river Elbe, Germany. The facility, which will be integrated into existing starch processing plant, will have an annual capacity of 100,000 cubic meters and use grain as its feedstock. FIF - April 26, 2007.

    Wärtsilä Corporation was awarded a contract by the Belgian independent power producer Renogen S.A. to supply a second biomass-fuelled combined heat and power plant in the municipality of Amel in the Ardennes, Belgium. The new plant will have a net electrical power output of 3.29 MWe, and a thermal output of up to 10 MWth for district heating. The electrical output in condensing operation is 5.3 MWe. Kauppalehti - April 25, 2007.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Brazil to build 'Biofuel Town' in Nigeria to kickstart bioenergy industry

Brazil is becoming very creative and serious about its intentions to help Africa tap its vast biofuel potential. The green energy leader recently established an agronomic research center in Ghana, aimed at transferring knowledge on bioenergy and technology, and a host of bilateral agreements in the sector were signed (earlier post). But now, an exciting new project is being launched - one that may, according to the initiators, become a model for Africa, India and China alike. With the project, Brazil strengthens its commitment to pursue South-South exchanges on bioenergy.

'Biofuel Town'
During the "Dia da África" [*Portuguese] (Africa Day, 25 May), which celebrates relationships between Brazil and Africa, a consortium of research organisations, companies and civil society organisations announced [*Portuguese] it will establish an 'AgroTown' ('Biofuel Town') in Nigeria, to kickstart a biofuel revolution on the continent. The project has the direct support of the government of President Lula da Silva, who is a staunch advocate of using biofuels as a tool for international cooperation and development assistance, as well as of the Nigerian government.

The Brazilian 'Biofuel Town' project consists of the creation of a settlement that can, in a first phase, house 1000 people - who will become bioenergy experts - , on an area of 6 million square meters. The project is estimated to cost US$100 million in a first phase.

The initiative makes use of the vast Brazilian experience in building sector-specific towns on the agricultural frontier. José Luiz de Vasconcelos Bonini, director of JLVB Arquitetura e Urbanismo, one of the brains behind the project, says one of the goals is to export Brazilian biofuels and agronomic know-how to sub-Saharan Africa. "The 'AgroTown' will be built near Nigeria's capital Lagos. The idea is to attract local investors and to help them produce ethanol on the basis of sugar cane and biodiesel on the basis of palm oil, widely grown in the country, as well as from castor."

In between the urban and the rural
Lagos is Africa's largest capital, a true megapolis of 14 million (if not more) inhabitants, many of whom live in dire poverty. It is not a coincidence that the 'Biofuel Town' will be built nearby. As such, it becomes a 'transitional zone' between Nigeria's country-side and the urban landscape. Energy is at the center of this conceptual zone - green energy, and not petroleum, the curse of the country. The location is more than symbolic, because it will actively tap into the real traffic between the rural and the urban, namely into the stream of internal migrants who leave their villages to try their luck in the mega-city.

Bonini notes that Lagos is almost as large as São Paulo, Latin America's biggest city, and that Brazilians understand this trek from the country-side to the city very well.

These rural migrants, on the brink of becoming urbanites, but still fundamentally farmers, will be invited to come and live near the new 'Biofuel Town'. There they will be surrounded by Brazilian agronomists and bioenergy experts. In a first phase these rural families will become the workers on the industrial plantations, but gradually they will be helped to become biofuel experts who will start their own mini-industries in the sector. This 'avant-garde' can then transfer technology, knowledge and skills to other parts of the country:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

To attract families, the 'Biofuel Town' will offer a range of incentives, such as professional training and education. When it comes to Brazilian agronomists, Bonini says the project has received a warm welcome, and a special agency was created to link up agricultural engineers from different institutions to make sure that the project gets noted.

Nigeria's contribution
The African country is set to benefit from this project, and in exchange for this influx of expertise and technology, Nigeria will contribute by exempting Brazilian companies from taxes for a period of five years. "We think this is an opportunity for Brazilian companies to collaborate with local partners and to expand their capacities. The Nigerian partners will help in divulging the news about the Biofuel City. In Brazil, the Associação Comercial Brasil-Nigeria is one of the investors."

According to Berucke Chikaeze Nwabasili, president of Brazil's nigerian community and member of the Associação Comercial says the 'AgroTown' will also function as a commercial chamber that will boost exchanges between the two countries: "It is interesting to do this via the development of biofuels." Nwabasili adds that the experience gained in the 'Biofuel Town' will be transferred to other parts of the country.

Nigeria "is a country rich in land and where sugar cane already is one of the leading crops for subsistence farming. The company Eco Energia will be responsible for the extraction of castor, a crop that is well suited for the region which has an excellent climate."

Interestingly, in another concession, the Nigerian government has authorised the project leaders to supply the town of energy - a task that would normally be carried out exclusively by official energy companies.

The project's ultimate goal is to go beyond the borders of Nigeria and export the model of the 'Biofuel Town' to India, China and the countries of West Africa. But the expansion will also involve products other than biofuels.

Vita Brasil, one of the collaborating companies, hopes to introduce a new ranges of foodstuffs aimed at fighting infant mortality: baby food made from cassava and rice, combined with esential minerals. According to Marc Aygadoux, marketing director, the goal is to triple exports of these products to Nigeria, which currently stand at 100 tonnes per month. A one year pilot project with the food in Brazil's city of Mongaguá, on the coast of São Paulo state, showed very encouraging results: infant mortality was reduced from 26 promille to 5 promille.

According to the director, the company is looking for African directors who can help create the market for the projects there. The 'Biofuel Town' may well be the perfect starting point to do so.

No hegemony

Speaking to 22 African ambassadors to Brazil during the 'Dia da África' president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva stressed that his country has no hegemonic intentions in Africa: "Brazil has no imperialist ambitions. Brazil refuses to become a hegemonic voice. Instead, Brazil wants to develop together, build together, to our common benefit."

The president signed a range of agreements tying the relationships between Africa and Brazil. Initiatives include the creation of a joint Latin-American - African university as well as the opening of a subsidiary of the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz) on the continent.

Brazil will help the continent especially on the front of peace building and conflict prevention, because a lack of political stability is the single most important factor determining Africa's underdevelopment.

"Only peace can guarantee a healthy development. Without peace, and with war, there is no economic growth, no educational development, no technological progress and injustice reigns."

Lula then focused on his intention to produce biofuels in Africa as a way to lift countries out of poverty.

Present at the celebration of the 'Dia da África' at the Palácio do Planalto were the ambassadors of South Africa, Angola, Cabo Verde África do Sul, Angola, Algeria, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Côte d´Ivoire, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinee, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

More information:
Notícias Agrícolas: Brasil implantará agrovila na Nigéria para etanol e biodiesel (DCI) - May 25, 2007.

Agência Brasil: Lula sugere novas parcerias com países africanos e defende fim das guerras - May 25, 2007.


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