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    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2007.

    Tasmania's first specialty biodiesel plant has been approved, to start operating as early as July. The Macquarie Oil Company will spend half a million dollars on a specially designed facility in Cressy, in Tasmania's Northern Midlands. The plant will produce more than five million litres of fuel each year for the transport and marine industries. A unique blend of feed stock, including poppy seed, is expected to make it more viable than most operations. ABC Rural - February 25, 2007.

    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2007.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2007.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2007.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2007.

    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2007.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2007.

    Austrian bioenergy group Cycleenergy acquired controlling interest in Greenpower Projektentwicklungs GmbH, expanding its biomass operational portfolio by 16 MW to a total of 22 MW. In the transaction Cycleenergy took over 51% of the company and thereby formed a joint venture with Porr Infrastruktur GmbH, a subsidiary of Austrian construction company Porr AG. Greenpower operates two wood chip CHP facilities in Upper and Lower Austria, each with an electric capacity of 2 MW. The plants have been in operation since the middle of last year and consume more than 30,000 tonnes of wood chips and are expected to generate over €5 million in additional revenue. Cycleenergy - February 6, 2007.

    The 2008 edition of Bioenergy World Europe will take place in Verona, Italy, from 7 to 10 February. Gathering a broad range of international exhibitors covering gaseous, liquid and solid bioenergy, the event aims to offer participants the possibility of developing their business through meetings with professionals, thematic study tours and an international forum focusing on market and regulatory issues, as well as industry expertise. Bioenergy World Europe - February 5, 2007.

    The World GTL Summit will take place between 12 – 14th May 2008 in London. Key topics to be discussed include: the true value of Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) projects, well-to-wheels analyses of the GTL value chain; construction, logistics and procurement challenges; the future for small-scale Fischer-Tropsch (FT) projects; Technology, economics, politics and logistics of Coal-to-Liquids (CTL); latest Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) commercialisation initiatives. CWC Exhibitions - February 4, 2007.

    The 4th Annual Brussels Climate Change Conference is announced for 26 - 27 February 2008. This joint CEPS/Epsilon conference will explore the key issues for a post-Kyoto agreement on climate change. The conference focuses on EU and global issues relating to global warming, and in particular looks at the following issues: - Post-2012 after Bali and before the Hokkaido G8 summit; Progress of EU integrated energy and climate package, burden-sharing renewables and technology; EU Emissions Trading Review with a focus on investment; Transport Climatepolicy.eu - January 28, 2007.

    Japan's Marubeni Corp. plans to begin importing a bioethanol compound from Brazil for use in biogasoline sold by petroleum wholesalers in Japan. The trading firm will import ETBE, which is synthesized from petroleum products and ethanol derived from sugar cane. The compound will be purchased from Brazilian petrochemical company Companhia Petroquimica do Sul and in February, Marubeni will supply 6,500 kilolitres of the ETBE, worth around US$7 million, to a biogasoline group made up of petroleum wholesalers. Wholesalers have been introducing biofuels since last April by mixing 7 per cent ETBE into gasoline. Plans call for 840 million liters of ETBE to be procured annually from domestic and foreign suppliers by 2010. Trading Markets - January 24, 2007.

    Toyota Tsusho Corp., Ohta Oil Mill Co. and Toyota Chemical Engineering Co., say it and two other firms have jointly developed a technology to produce biodiesel fuel at lower cost. Biodiesel is made by blending methanol into plant-derived oil. The new technology requires smaller amounts of methanol and alkali catalysts than conventional technologies. In addition, the new technology makes water removal facilities unnecessary. JCN Network - January 22, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Paper and SWISS COMBI - W. Kunz dryTec A.G. have entered a licence agreement for the SWISS COMBI belt dryer KUVO, which allows biomass to be dried in a low temperature environment and at high capacity, both for pulp & paper and bioenergy applications. Kauppalehti - January 22, 2007.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Father of bio-jet fuel launches biofuel cooperatives in Brazil to reduce poverty

Thanks to his fame, professor Expedito Parente, the father of biodiesel and bio-jet fuel, is now on the brink of launching a vast agro-industrial project in Brazil's Nordeste region based on cooperatives that will be serving as a model for reducing extreme rural poverty in tropical countries. And surprisingly, the professor is looking at a relatively unknown palm tree for the production of vast quantities of biofuel, namely the Babassu palm (earlier post and here).

At 66 of age, doutor Expedito has never been so requested. His 'bioquerosene' (biokerosene) should be a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in aviation and to prepare for a gradual substitution of jet fuel. Parente's fuel was courted by both NASA and Boeing. Tests have been performed since mid-2006 and are believed to soon enter a decisive stage at Boeing’s facilities in Seattle. Contrary to bioethanol and biodiesel already established in road transportation worldwide, biojet fuel is a vegetable product which has still not been in commercial use.

For a long time, Expedito Parente (left in the pic) was a professor at Ceara Federal University in Fortaleza, a large city in Brazil’s Nordeste region. When he retired, this hyperactive academic wanted to continue to do something useful. In 2001, he thus founded Tecbio, a small engineering firm developing biodiesel refineries. It was nicely timed. Tecbio has now a staff of eighty and is growing exponentially. But Dr. Parente nourishes a double obsession: to be the first to make airlines adopt bio-jet fuel, an important technological step ahead of ordinary biodiesel, and producing this biofuel in Brazil in a socially correct way.

Babassu palms
In 2005, professor Parente won the Blue Sky Award for his aircraft fuel project, "a kind of Nobel prize given by the UN for innovations in the field of renewable energies", he comments.

Interest for the invention was confirmed at the beginning of this year at a Washington D.C. seminar organized by the Transportation Research Board, a government agency. Participants were confronted with an apparently absurd question: "May Babassu already be a renewable source to serve as substitute for jet fuel?"

This palm tree, unknown to most people in the West, grows in the wild on 18 million hectares (45 million acres) in Brazil's forest in the North East. Such size corresponds to six times Maryland or roughly half the size of Switzerland. It was Expedito Parente who discovered that the nuts of the babassu - or more precisely the kernels within - can be turned into an oil that possesses energetic properties which make it an ideal feedstock for bio-jet fuel.

There are certainly social and ecological arguments in favor of the babassu palm: its use does not compete with land for food production, nor does it imply deforestation as the palm grows in the wild and can thus be integrated in sustainable agro-forestry systems (earlier post):

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
Professor's comeback
In reality the discovery is not all that recent and babassu has been growing in Brazil for ages. But Professor Parente himself is making a spectacular comeback. In the 1980s he was the first in the world to patent biodiesel as an industrial process. He was acclaimed as the “Father of Biodiesel”. This brilliant academic was then asked to find a vegetable substitute for aircraft fuel. The product resulting from this research made a turboprop transportation airplane fly a distance of some 600 miles in 1984. So why did not aviation worldwide adopt his biokerosene? Parente explains:
At the time, petroleum prices went down dramatically. And we must understand that a fuel to be acceptable for modern jetliners has to be extremely reliable and resistant at very low temperatures, it is a complex product.
There is a new dimension to what is at stake. To fly from London to Rio, and back, provokes individually as much CO2 emissions as those generated during fifteen months of sedentary life in a European capital, heating and local transportation included, if we are to believe comparative studies of environmental impacts. Already, air transportation operators supply travelers with different service contributions to buy, in compensation for greenhouse effect emissions.

Globally, airlines gulp down 26 billion gallons of fuel per year, and this figure may double in twenty years. 20 per cent of their operational costs correspond to fuel. For the first time in 2006, the fuel bill exceeded costs for staff in the sector. Sir Richard Branson, British business mogul, scorching supporter of many environmental causes, but mainly founder and president of the Virgin group which counts several air transportation carriers, said in a recent interview that "immediate solutions" should be found (earlier post).

Could the babassu palm make the difference? A Brazilian law grants the local population the right to collect babassu nuts freely, independently of who owns the land. A situation of ecological balance totally opposed to the one to be observed in Malaysia or Indonesia, known to shelter the largest palm tree plantations in the world, but also encouraging deforestation and boosting the greenhouse effect as the original jungle is frequently permited to be burnt down.

Today, biojet fuel does not seem to be entirely competitive though, as jet fuel derived from petroleum is sold free from taxes at 1,5 USD per gallon, which is still very cheap.
Soon there will be eco-taxes on aviation fuel. And I am pretty sure that authorities will make it mandatory to blend conventional fuel with biojet when available. Costs will also shrink significantly when industrial production is started.
But won't the land areas needed be gigantic? Doutor Expedito has a ready answer:
If 20 per cent of aviation fuel were to be produced in form of green fuel for blending, such volumes would correspond to some 30 million acres land. It’s a huge territory, I agree, but it is less than the existing Babassu forests.
Tecbio and its involuntarily hype boss have furthermore a very clear social vision. This is important to emphasize, as bioethanol mills using sugar cane as raw material has not reduced poverty in the Brazilian countryside. Seasonal plantation workers called boias frias (“cold billies”) have a hard time. Because of piece-work, a Brazilian cane cutter will only ‘last’ twelve years, less than a slave in ancient times, according to a recent study.

Professor Parente gets upset:
Such conditions are intolerable. We have our own model which pretends to reconcile social development and industrial dynamics. At present date, Tecbio is leading two pilot projects in collaboration with federal authorities. The idea is to create cooperative units, in association with the local population, for a socially correct production of biodiesel derived from Babassu kernel oil. Respecting the environment, this model should be replicated in other regions, for examples in deforested areas of the Amazon and in Africa.
But is it not utopian wanting to assemble two operational methods which are normally dissociated: the small-scale traditional way versus output through high-tech plants ? Expedito Parente holds out his arms. He makes one think of a talented film maker who, after years of prospecting, has just received unlimited funds to shoot an ambitious picture based on an art script:
One has to be pragmatic. We work with feasibility from an economic point of view. Running a cooperative does not mean that it should not be profitable. In a basic scheme, each cooperative shall produce three million liters [800,000 gallons] of biodiesel/biojet fuel per year, together with several other products originated from the nuts. There will be some agriculture. All the electricity consumed in the cooperative shall be generated organically on the spot. Each cooperative is giving part-time jobs to 3,000 peasants. On the other hand we study also ecologically run Babassu plantations.
To produce one billion liters of biojet fuel, [270 million gallons] at least 300 such cooperatives are needed. This is certainly a time-consuming project. Plans are allowed to be extensive though, changeover seems to be secured. Of four children, Doutor Expedito has one son working at Tecbio. At age 26 and a chemical engineer as his father, he already takes part in management. His name is premonitory : Expedito Parente Junior...

Copyright, Agoravox, 2007.


Anonymous bcole said...

National Algae Association

Algae: The Next Biofuel


Algae Commercialization
Business Plan and Networking Forum

April 10, 2008


8:45 PM  

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