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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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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Senegal and Brazil sign biofuel agreement to make Africa a major supplier

Of all regions, the African continent has the largest long term sustainable biofuel production potential, with some estimates putting it at a maximum of 410 EJ per year by 2050. Consider that the planet in its entirety currently consumes around 400EJ of energy from all sources (coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, renewables).

At the same time, high energy prices are disastrous for poor oil-importing African countries. The UN recently noted that some countries nowadays are forced to spend as much as 6 times as much on fuel as they do on health, twice the money on fuel as they do on poverty alleviation, and in still others, the foreign exchange drain from higher oil prices is five times the gain from recent debt relief. The threat of Peak Oil has the potential to ruin all development efforts in these countries. But biofuels may offer a way out.

One of the first African leaders to see both this potential catastrophe and its possible solution is Senegal's recently reelected president Abdoulaye Wade. Last year, this éminence grise of African politics announced the formation of a 'Green OPEC' aimed at making African countries less dependent on oil by replacing it with biofuels. This organisation, dubbed 'PANPP' ('Pays Africans Non-Producteurs de Pétrole'), unites 15 non-oil producing countries on the continent. The goal of the organisation is to stimulate the exchange of knowledge, skills and technologies for the development of a biofuels industry, as well as a mechanism to redistribute some of the oil wealth from other African countries to be invested in a fuel solidarity fund.

Stressting the urgency of a switch to biofuels Wade's administration meanwhile put its money where its mouth is, by launching a first biofuel production plan based on the cultivation of jatropha, of which 250 million seedlings were distributed amongst rural families. The project is part of an attempt to revive agriculture in the country, and to curb the massive flow of 'illegal' migrants from Senegal to Europe (earlier post).

In an perfect example of smart 'trilateral' South-South collaboration, Senegal also started implementing a larger bioenergy programme with direct albeit informal support of Brazil's president Lula, and carried out by entrepreneurs from India. Senegal wants to learn and offers land and labor; Brazil brings in scientific and technological know-how; and Indian business makes sure that enough capital is in place. This public-private partnership is hailed as a win-win situation for all partners involved (earlier post).

Broad initiative
Senegal and Brazil have now officially signed a biofuel cooperation agreement [*Portuguese] in Brasília, where President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and President Abdoulaye Wade consecrated their commitment to making Africa a major biofuel supplier.

During the signing of a series of accords, one of which was aimed specifically at strengthening Senegalese human resources in the bioenergy sector and at transferring technologies, the Brazilian leader stressed his country's willingness to share its world leading biodiesel and ethanol expertise with the countries of the 'Green OPEC': "Under the leadership of Senegal, we want to extend this initiative to other non-oil producing African countries." Lula stressed the initiative is part of a larger South-South strategy on biofuels that will eventually involve NEPAD.
His counterpart stated:
"Biofuels are going to provoke a revolution in Africa. The entire continent is set to become a major supplier of green fuels, because it has what is needed: abundant land, water, sunlight and creativity. Biofuels offer an extraordinary opportunity to generate employment and to make agriculture more sustainable. Therefor, we have decided to launch the production of biofuels not only in Senegal, but across Africa, by drawing on Brazilian knowledge, technology and expertise."
The Senegalese leader noted that his counterpart had explained to him the ideal model of Brazil's Pro-Biodiesel program, Lula's own project which differs considerably from the Pro-Alcool program that was created 30 years ago. Under this new model "the farmers remain owners of their land and work on their own soils, while at the same time producing feedstocks for larger investors with who they make win-win agreements within a clear legal framework". Brazil's "Social Fuel" policy is aimed at making this model work, so that it benefits small farmers:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

During a press conference after the meeting, Mr Wade added that his country would first focus on the production of biodiesel from oil-seed crops such as jatropha and ricin.

President Lula further elaborated on the need for South-South integration:
"It is much easier for a Brazilian businessman to go to Europe or to the United States to set up shop. He is not going to do business in Africa. The same is true for a Senegalese businessman. But we have to change this situation. We can only speak of genuine South-South integration when we establish a presence in a country of the South, each time we do so in the North."
A growing presence in Africa
Brazil is becoming very active on the African continent. Late last year, it established an Africa-cell of its leading agricultural research agency EMBRAPA in Accra, Ghana. From there, delegations have visited countries across the continent (including Mozambique, Angola and Morocco), to help assess the biofuel opportunity and to assist them with exploiting their untapped agricultural potential in a sustainable way. (See our article on "Brazil in Africa").

In another series of developments, Brazil is creating forms of trilateral 'South-North-South' cooperation with European countries who are willing to invest in Africa's bioenergy potential. An example is Brazil's agreement with Italy, or that with the UK and Sweden.

More information:
Agência Brasil: Brasil e Senegal assinam quatro acordos de cooperação - May 16, 2007.

Le Matin: Le Sénégal veut être une porte d'entrée des biocarburants - May 17, 2007.

Diário de Cuiabá: Brasil e Senagal assinam acordos de cooperação - May 16, 2007.

Lusa (Agência de Notícias de Portugal): Brasil assina acordo com Senegal na área de biocombustíveis - May 16, 2007.


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