<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home » Archive »
Nature Blog Network

    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.

    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.

Creative Commons License

Sunday, May 06, 2007

CO2 balance of large-scale electricity production: nuclear good, biogas best

A new life-cycle study prepared by Germany's Öko-Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology) looks at 16 different power systems and the greenhouse gas emissions balance as well as the cost of offsetting the CO2 emissions of the electricity generated from these systems.

The research [*German] was prepared as a working paper to guide discussions about the future of nuclear power in Europe. In many EU-member states, the issue is extremely controversial, as several governments have decided to phase out this energy source. But the twin-problems of climate change and energy security have re-opened the debate, with advocates saying nuclear power is very clean and that the benefits of the technology far outweigh the risks associated with it. The report on mitigating global warming, published recently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has included nuclear power as a technology that may contribute positively to strategies aimed at reducing climate-destructive emissions (earlier post). However, not withstanding the good CO2 balance of electricity from nuclear, the Öko-Institut advises against the technology for a series of reasons (see below).

Nuclear good, biogas best
The study by the Öko-Institut contains a comparison of the amount of greenhouse gases released over the entire life-cycle of 16 different power systems - wind, solar, biogas, hydropower, nuclear, natural gas and coal, in different configurations - per unit of electricity produced (see table1). Of course, renewables score very well, but nuclear does so too, emitting 6 times less CO2 than common power plants using brown coal (lignite). Most importantly, biogas used in a combined heat-and-power plant with district heating has the best balance by far and actually results in a negative emissions system. This is so when the feedstock for biogas is derived from biomass waste-streams:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The study did not look at 'Bio-energy with Carbon Storage' (BECS) systems, which would score even better. It does include a rather detailed calculus of the net and gross GHG balance of the different technologies, as well as a separate balance for the heat and the power part of the system (in as far as it concerns CHP and cogeneration plants).

Importantly, the study has not taken into account the greenhouse gases released during the mining, transformation and transport of the fuels and materials used in the power system (e.g. the GHG's released during the production of the materials used for the construction of wind turbines have not been taken into account, neither the emissions that enter the atmosphere when fuel is transported to power plants, etc...). But in any case, the comparison offers a basic overview of which technologies will offer the best opportunity to fight climate change.

Note that for all systems that actually 'burn' a fuel (coal, brown coal, biogas, natural gas, nuclear), combined heat and power/cogeneration systems naturally offer considerable advantages over ordinary power plants; their higher costs are largely negated by the large amount of carbon dioxide emissions they save.

Costs of offsetting carbon emissions
The report also looks at how much it would cost to offset the emissions of a particular power system. Here again, biogas scores best (apart from efficiency increases, which score even better). As table 2 (click to enlarge) indicates, brown coal, imported coal and natural gas in cogeneration plants shows a negative offsetting cost, but this is so because the baseline is coal in ordinary plants. This simply means switching to cogeneration plants is a highly cost-effective option.

The costs associated with offsetting the CO2 generated by offshore wind and nuclear power (with a balanced mix of uranium supplies), are relatively low, but for onshore wind and imported solar electricity, costs are more than three and four times as high as those for biogas.

To know the carbon offsetting costs of different technologies allows decision makers to assess whether it is worth investing in a particular power system, depending on the value of carbon (as it is set on markets like the European Emissions Trading Scheme - ETS). The other major and most obvious factor determining these decisions is simply the cost of generating electricity. Renewables have a clear disadvantage over fossil fuels and nuclear here, but the gap is closing (table 3, click to enlarge). These numbers are largely consistent with those of other studies (but note that the Öko-Institut did not take into account solid biomass, which has become quite competitive with fossil fuels - earlier post).

Depending on the evolution of carbon prices, fossil fuel prices and government incentives, we will see a smaller or larger number of large-scale renewable energy systems appear in the future.

Nuclear should be phased out
The Öko-Institut stresses that, despite the interesting CO2-balance of electricity generated from nuclear power, the technology must be phased out for a set of different reasons: (1) the risks associated with nuclear remain high, and the waste problem has not been solved, (2) uranium supplies are finite and may peak relatively soon, certainly given the fact that rapidly developing countries are investing heavily in the technology, which drives up prices and depletes uranium resources, (3) fourth generation nuclear power plants (which recycle spent fuel) are experimental and there is no clear evidence for the viability of these reactors, neither a clear assessment of their costs or a time-frame indicating when they could be realistically built, (4) finally, the potential for renewables is large enough to make the transition to a post-nuclear future.

When it comes to this potential, we only need to refer to recent studies on biogas in Europe, which estimate that the Union can produce some 500 billion cubic metres of the natural gas equivalent renewable, clean and low-carbon biomethane by 2020-30 (earlier post). This means the continent can replace all imports from Russia, or supply the energy needed to decommission a substantial number of Europe's 173 nuclear plants. Adding other (more costly) renewables like wind, solar and hydro gives us a strong enough portfolio of alternative energy sources with which to enter the post-nuclear future.

This kind of studies is important for decision makers in the Global South, who are not burdened yet by old technologies and the political lobbies that have been created around them. By making smart decisions based on historic and current data from highly industrialised nations they can 'leapfrog' straight into a cleaner, more sustainable and greener future.

More information:
Öko-Institut, Uwe R. Fritsche: Treibhausgasemissionen und Vermeidungskosten der nuk-learen, fossilen und erneuer-baren Strombereitstellung [*.pdf] - March 2007.

Öko-Institut: Studie des Öko-Instituts zeigt CO2-Bilanz von Strom auf - March 14, 2007.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home