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    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.

    A Scania OmniCity double-decker bus to be deployed by Transport for London (TfL) will be powered by ethanol made from Brazilian sugar cane, TfL Coordinator Helen Woolston told a bioethanol conference in London. The bus will join a fleet of seven hybrid diesel-electric buses currently running in London, where TfL plans to introduce 50 more hybrid buses by the end of 2008. EEMS Online - April 24, 2007.

    Virgin Atlantic plans to fly a 747 jumbojet on a mix of 60% biofuel and 40% kerosene in 2008. Sir Richard Branson is collaborating with Boeing to achieve this milestone in aviation history. He already hinted at the fact that the biofuels "it was possible the crops could be grown in Africa, thereby helping to alleviate poverty on the continent at the same time as safeguarding the environment." More details to be announced soon. Telegraph - April 24, 2007.

    A top executive of General Motors, vice-chairman Bob Lutz, says the US should launch a 'Manhattan Project' for biofuels to make a 'wholesale switch' within five years. Kentucky.com - April 24, 2007.

    Canada's new government launches a C$200 million 'Ecoagriculture Biofuels Capital Initiative' aimed at helping agricultural producers construct or expand transportation biofuel production facilities. Government of Canada - April 24, 2007.

    Russian oil company Lukoil reportedly installed production facilities for obtaining biofuels in its refinery Neftochim in the coastal city of Bourgas. Lukoil has over 2500 oil stations in Europe, the largest number of which are located in Bulgaria, which joined the EU this year. Sofia Echo - April 22, 2007.

    The government of the Indian state of Haryana approves three small-scale (1MW) biomass gasification projects, while the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA) identifies seven industrial sectors it will help to adopt the biomass gasification technology to meet their captive thermal and electrical requirements. Economic Times - April 21, 2007.

    The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is planning to build a coconut oil biodiesel plant in Ivisan, Capiz (a province in the Western Visayas region) by the middle of this year in response to the growing demand for biodiesel. News Today (Iloilo City) - April 20, 2007.

    Scientists working for Royal Nedalco (involved in cellulosic ethanol production), the Delft University of Technology and a firm called Bird Engineering have found a fungus in elephant dung that helped them produce a yeast strain which can efficiently ferment xylose into ethanol. The researchers consider this to be a breakthrough and see widespread application of the yeast within 5 years. More info to follow as details emerge. Scientific American - April 19, 2007.

    As part of its 'Le dessous des cartes' magazine, Europe's culture TV channel ARTE airs a documentary about the geopolitics of sustainable transport tonight, at 10.20 pm CET. Readers outside of Europe can catch it here. ARTE - April 18, 2007.

    Spain's diversified company the Ferry Group is investing €50 million into a biomass plantation in new EU-memberstate Bulgaria. The project will see the establishment of a 8000ha plantation of hybrid paulownia trees that will be used for the production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik, Bulgaria - April 18, 2007.

    Bioprocess Control signs agreement with Svensk Biogas and forms closer ties with Swedish Biogas International. Bioprocess Control develops high-tech applications that optimise the commercial production of biogas. It won Sweden's prestigious national clean-tech innovations competition MiljöInnovation 2007 for its 'Biogas Optimizer' that accelerates the biogas production process and ensures greater process stability. NewsDesk Sweden - April 17, 2007.

    A joint Bioenergy project of Purdue University and Archer Daniels Midland Company has been selected to receive funding by the U.S. Department of Energy to further the commercialization of highly-efficient yeast which converts cellulosic materials into ethanol through fermentation. ADM - April 17, 2007.

    Researchers at Iowa State University and the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Services (ARS) have found that glycerin, a biodiesel by-product, is as effective as conventional corn-soymeal diets for pigs. AllAboutFeed - April 16, 2007.

    U.S. demand for uranium may surge by a third amid a revival in atomic power projects, increasing concern that imports will increase and that limited supplies may push prices higher, the Nuclear Energy Institute says. Prices touched all time highs of US$113 a pound in an auction last week by a U.S producer amid plans by China and India to expand their nuclear power capacity. International Herald Tribune - April 16, 2007.

    Taiwan mandates a 1% biodiesel and ethanol blend for all diesel and gasoline sold in the country, to become effective next year. By 2010, the ratio will be increased to 2%. WisconsinAg Connection - April 16, 2007.

    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.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cleaning up Kinshasa by introducing biogas

The people of Kinshasa, Africa's second largest and fastest growing megapolis, used to proudly call their city Kin la Belle ('Kinshasa the Beautiful') but after years of neglect, they now disparage it as Kin la Poubelle ('Kinshasa the Dustbin').

Click to open slide-show on 'Kin la Poubelle'
The waste problem in the city of 8 million has become so dramatic that it even became a topic during the recent presidential elections. Wars, corruption, dictators who only mind their own clan, the collapse of social and municipal services, lack of planning and stubborn habits of the city's swelling population have led to a management challenge so immense and smelly that nobody has the courage to tackle it. Meanwhile, the accumulating waste has become a health hazard responsible for the return of water-borne diseases like typhoid and cholera, for respiratory diseases and for water pollution.

But the confluence of a series of factors has opened new perspectives. Energy is becoming increasingly expensive in this strange city, where urban and rural logics have become intertwined. As rural populations become urbanites, they bring their habits from the country-side, and, instead of abandoning them in favor of 'modern' urban practises, they create their own village in the city. This so-called 'villagisation' of one of the world's mega-cities, has astonished many an anthropologist. Urban farming, tribal affiliations, magic, sorcery, traditional healing methods and rural household economics have become inseparable from the hip modernity that is typical of Kinshasa.

This villagisation also implies that millions of Kinois in the slums keep using fuel wood for their daily heating and cooking needs. All trees within a radius of dozens of kilometres of Kinshasa have been cut, and the expansion continues as Congo's capital grows. The result of this expansion and the lack of both electricity in the slums and of cleaner fuels (like kerosene and LPG, which are expensive) is a dramatic scarcity of fuel. Almost all large and rapidly growing cities in the huge country are facing the same problems as "Kin La Poubelle".

Writing in the Belgian Embassy's sectoral publication entitled Eau, Energie, Environnement et Agriculture professor Monzambe Mapunzu of the Department of Agronomic and Veterinary Sciences of the Université Pédagogique Nationale explains that the production of biogas from municipal solid waste can go a long way in cleaning up Congo's towns while providing a clean source of energy. Moreover, the technology could boost rural populations' access to energy and help motorise farmers' activities, resulting in higher productivity. Biogas production can also be integrated in soil enhancement strategies. Lack of clean and durable energy supplies is a major factor of underdevelopment and poverty amongst these populations:
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Monzambe says that, despite Congo's large potential energy reserves (hydropower, biofuels), the level of electrification in the country is one of the lowest on the African continent: barely 6%. Biogas offers a relatively simple, proven and reliable technology to tackle both the waste management problem in the cities as well as the lack of modern energy in the country-side.

Energy and rural development
"The diagnosis of rural development points to a deep poverty amongst populations. Decentralised and autonomous energy production, relying on the biomethanation of agricultural residues and urban solid waste can solve different problems at once: biogas can replace the use of fuel wood especially in zones that suffer under erosion, desertification and deforestation, as is the case in the peripheries around large cities; biogas can facilitate the development of small-scale agricultural motorisation (pumps, refrigerators, harvesting, transporting of crops, etc...) and can contribute to increasing agricultural productivity; biogas production can increase the fertility of soils by utilising the residues from the methanised organic matter, which make for an excellent green fertiliser".

Biogas production in the cities can help mitigate the health hazards arising from accumulating waste. During the biomethanation of waste, the anaerobic digester eliminates more than 90% of the pathogenic bacteria contained in waste, and between 90 and 100% of intestinal worms and between 35 and 100% of their eggs. In short, anaerobic digestion has the potential to reduce organic, microbial, olfactive and aesthetic pollution.

Waste management in the cities
With its urbanisation level of 30% and an average population growth of 3.3% per annum (the largest in Africa), its growing rural exodus as a result of numerous conflicts since 1963 until this day, the urban zones of Congo are becoming rapidly overpopulated. These social and demographic developments occur without any clear planning or coherent policy framework: the State doesn't provide appropriate housing for the swelling populations, new quarters are being established without any urban planning and in disregard of the most basic public health considerations (sewers, public latrines, green spaces and facilities for young people, energy and water infrastructures, roads, etc...).

According to professor Monzambe, there is a clear correlation between the demographic explosion in Congo, the production of waste and the degradation of the environment. This comes down to the basic observation that rising consumption results in growing waste streams that require appropriate management strategies. Monzambe calculated that each individual produces around 0.5kg of faecal waste, 1kg of municipal waste and 194 liters of liquid waste per day. 8 million Kinois therefor produce 4000 tons of human waste, 8000 tons of municipal solid waste and 1.552 billion liters of waste water. This huge and unmanaged stream of waste pollutes large pockets of the city, even markets where food is sold, and transforms the many canals and streams into open sewers.

Today in Kinshasa, waste is not only undermanaged but left to decompose in the open air way too long. This has become the prime cause of the resurgence of diseases like cholera and typhoid, and of respiratory diseases. Biogas production again seems to be the most appropriate technology to deal with the problem, certainly given its potential to supply energy, a scarce resource in the cities.

Translated by Laurens Rademakers

More information:
Le Potential, via AllAfrica: Congo-Kinshasa: Développement durable, l'industrie du biogaz, une réponse à la pollution des déchets dans les villes congolaises - May 2, 2007 (original article).


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