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    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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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

EU launches platform to promote bioenergy in semi-arid Africa

The EU has launched an ambitious project to study and implement bioenergy projects in the semi-arid and arid regions of Africa, aimed at bringing modern biofuels to local populations, as well as exporting green fuels to world markets. Dubbed 'COMPETE' (Competence Platform on Energy Crop and Agroforestry Systems for Arid and Semi-arid Ecosystems - Africa), the platform's aim is to stimulate the creation of a forum for policy dialogue and capacity building in the major multi- and bi-lateral funding organisations and key stakeholders throughout the bioenergy provision and supply chains. COMPETE is formed by a consortium of 44 partners from 5 continents, coordinated by WIP-Renewable Energies, Germany, and runs from January 2007 to December 2009, co-funded by the European Commission's 6th Framework Programme.

In order to ensure the sustainable production of biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel for transport, solid biomass for electricity and heating, and gaseous fuels for transport, electricity and household energy, COMPETE brings together world-leading scientists, researchers, funders and practitioners from different fields and across the world to create a platform for knowledge exchange, policy and methodology development. It will use this concentrated expertise to provide strategic and practical guidance and tools on the provision of modern bioenergy for the sustainable and optimal usage of these special ecosystems.

The main objective of COMPETE is to identify pathways for the provision of bioenergy, which will:
  • improve the quality of life for the inhabitants e.g. poverty alleviation, value added activities, alternative means of income generation and providing options to reduce vulnerability whilst, in parallel;
  • aid the preservation of the critical functions of arid and semi-arid regions in Africa as intact ecosystems e.g. maintaining biodiversity and providing ecosystem services, and;
  • enhance the equitable exchange of knowledge between EU and developing countries in this critical area of activity
A number of sub-objectives which represent the highly cross-sectoral nature of bioenergy provision and the breadth and depth of the scientific and technological objectives that COMPETE will integrate into providing useful decision making and implementation tools.

The long-term provision of secure supplies of bioenergy will require the evaluation of a large range of inter-related factors within a comprehensive analytical framework and associated decision making tools leading to a holistic policy development process.

Bioenergy deals with many interrelated factors, such as the optimal and socially acceptable allocation of land between food, infrastructure, bioenergy and other uses; soil degradation; the impacts of, and on, climate change; water use; and, the potential for political conflict. These factors are closely linked to the problems that many regions in Africa are confronted with. A multi-sectoral cross-disciplinary approach is therefor urgently needed to cope with these problems and the likely demands generated by high oil prices.

Science, technology, trade, cooperation
The complexity of bioenergy makes that the project work of the COMPETE competence network is divided into seven major co-ordination activities (work-packages, WP) comprising a specified number of tasks (diagram, click to enlarge). These co-ordination activities have been identified in a way to ensure that all important aspects connected to an improved and sustainable management of natural resources in arid and semi-arid regions of developing countries are addressed. An overview of these work-packages:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Current Land Use
This work package will synthesise information from a range of high quality sources that have categorised and evaluated land use patterns in Africa with a view to (a) identifying land suitable for biomass production for energy, (b) suitable for conversion from other uses, and; (c) filtering out land that is not available or not suitable for inclusion in future bioenergy land use scenarios.

Traditional uses of biomass for energy, food and medicines (plant and animal-derived) have significant impacts on land and water use and availability which need to be understood, quantified and integrated into future land-use management scenarios. Almost all communities in the rural areas of Africa are involved in this type of traditional collection and use of biomass and modern bioenergy systems must provide those affected with alternative sources of income or resources to cover these needs. Therefore, this work package will include an evaluation of the impacts of mitigating these traditional needs in the light of the land use estimations discussed above.

Information on the land will include: (a) specific climatic, terrain, soil and ecological opportunities and constraints, (b) legal and social status, and (c) economic framework conditions as related to proximity and access to water resources, transportation infrastructure, population nodes, potential markets etc. The sustainability of the resource management practices of indigenous people will be a key focus.

Improved Land Use
The overall objective of this work package is to provide an overview of experiences and concepts for sustainable production (and use) of biomass for energy. This includes improvements in conventional agricultural production, since productivity improvement is vital for making land available for new crops without increasing pressure on existing land resources. Following sub-objectives are identified:
  1. To provide an overview of known agricultural practices (arable land, cattle farming/use of pasture land and agro-forestry) that lead to improvements in (sustainable) yields compared to common practice in varying contexts in Southern Africa.
  2. To provide an overview of experience with different existing biomass production systems for energy markets and use and their environmental and socio-economic impacts. This includes bio-ethanol production from e.g. sugar cane, biodiesel production from oil crops and production of heat and power from woody biomass.
  3. To provide an overview of promising new (or improved) biomass production and utilisation schemes including their expected environmental and socio-economic impacts.
  4. To provide insights in possible introduction schemes for sustainable biomass production, integrated in current agricultural practices (including pasture lands) and provide estimates for the potential contributions to sustainable energy supply, income and employment generation as well as ecological impacts (and benefits) for the South African region.
This work package is closely interlinked with work package 1 (current land use patterns) and work package 3 (sustainability analysis of alternative land-use) and results are to be produced in close collaboration.

Furthermore, three working groups are defined dealing specifically with 1. Energy crops for ethanol production, 2. Energy crops for biodiesel production and 3. Biomass production and supply for production of electricity and heat.

An essential prerequisite for the implementation of alternative energy crop and agroforestry schemes is to ensure their ecological, economic and social sustainability. Practical mechanisms for defining, monitoring and rewarding good sustainability practice are beginning to emerge both locally and globally. Ensuring the ‘renewable’ status of bioenergy will mean tailoring these mechanisms to each bioenergy production system, irrespective of location, scale or technology.

Work package 3 will coordinate activities on the sustainability analysis of alternative land use. It will integrate the most recent understanding of the social and environmental management sciences to ensure sustainable use of resources while providing optimum economic and community benefits.

International Cooperation

South-South Cooperation
The implementation of alternative energy crops and agro forestry schemes has recently gained large interest worldwide, especially in developing countries in Asia and Latin America.
The objective of this work package is to link the project activities in Africa with on-going successful research and demonstration efforts in the field of energy crops and agroforestry systems in Latin America and Asia. This will be achieved by exchanging information, especially learning from initiatives that are directly related to the themes under the COMPETE project. Specific objectives include:
  • To document and exchange information on a broad range of issues covering improved agriculture and sustainable agro-forestry systems that have been successfully demonstrated / implemented in Asia and Latin America.
  • To identify best practices that have the potential for application in Africa and carry out impact assessment of the selected schemes / approaches
  • To prepare a draft strategy document for implementation of the best practices in Africa

This work package also aims to provide effective links with Work Packages (WP) 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7.

North-South Cooperation
Furthermore WP4 will be concerned with the transfer of knowledge and technical know-how between developed and developing countries as well as the promotion of joint ventures for common activities in the field of new energy crop and agroforestry systems.


The overall objectives of this Work Package are to:
  • Identify the existing financing mechanisms that are currently used for energy crop and agroforestry activities with emphasis on carbon financing, multilateral and bilateral donors, and trading and commercial options (a usable inventory of current projects should be made available from Work Packages 1 and 2.)
  • Provide an overview of the opportunities that exist for financing new and additional energy crop and agroforestry activities in arid and semi-arid Africa (emphasis on financing for sustainable activities as identified in WP3)
  • Identify the main barriers associated with each financing mechanism (some general barriers to implementation should be identified in WP4)
  • Develop a strategy to improve financing for energy crops and agroforestry activities.
  • To identify opportunities and barriers for linking bio-energy production in Africa to international (export) markets, both within the region as to the global market.

Policy Development

The objective of this work package is to coordinate policy research activities in African countries aimed at facilitating the efficient implementation of improved energy crop and agroforestry systems in order to enhance economic productivity and sustain rural and peri-urban livelihoods. It is also aimed at avoiding adverse environmental and social degradation that could arise from faulty policy development and implementation.

Policy initiatives will be evaluated and developed in close cooperation with African multinational organisations (SADC, UEMOA, NEPAD) and national Governments. By ensuring that this work package is Africa-led, local site, climate, soil and cultural aspects will be inherent to policy development. This will also help to inform EU developmental policy about the objectives on ‘Africa’ and ‘Bioenergy’ specific issues in this critical development sector.

Furthermore, the nexus of these policy research activities with agricultural policies will be addressed through involvement of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

The consortium
The COMPETE consortium includes universities, institutes and associations from all continents. African partners are from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. European partners are from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden, and United Kingdom. Asian partners are from China, India, and Thailand. Latin American partners are from Brazil and Mexico. International partners are the AFDB, CI, and FAO. A detailed list with members can be found here [*.pdf].

So far, COMPETE has published a small number of interesting texts, including a general "Biofuel SWOT-Analysis", a "Biofuel Technology Handbook", and a "Testing framework for sustainable biomass".

Biopact is currently in the process of applying for Associate Membership of COMPETE.

More information:
Competence Platform on Energy Crop and Agroforestry Systems for Arid and Semi-arid Ecosystems- Africa, homepage.

The European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme.


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