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    A project to evaluate barley’s potential in Canada’s rapidly evolving biofuels industry has received funding of $262,000 from the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI). Western Barley Growers Association [*.pdf] - May 27, 2007.

    PNOC-Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC), the biofuel unit of Philippine National Oil Company, is planning to undertake an initial public offering next year or in 2009 so it can have its own cash and no longer rely on its parent for funding of biofuels projects. Manila Bulletin - May 27, 2007.

    TMO Renewables Limited, a producer of ethanol from biomass, has licensed the ERGO bioinformatics software developed and maintained by Integrated Genomics. TMO will utilize the genome analysis tools for gene annotation, metabolic reconstruction and enzyme data-mining as well as comparative genomics. The platform will enable the company to further understand and exploit its thermophilic strains used for the conversion of biomass into fuel. CheckBiotech - May 25, 2007.

    Melbourne-based Plantic Technologies Ltd., a company that makes biodegradable plastics from plants, said 20 million pounds (€29/US$39 million) it raised by selling shares on London's AIM will help pay for its first production line in Europe. Plantic Technologies [*.pdf] - May 25, 2007.

    Shell Hydrogen LLC and Virent Energy Systems have announced a five-year joint development agreement to develop further and commercialize Virent's BioForming technology platform for the production of hydrogen from biomass. Virent Energy Systems [*.pdf] - May 24, 2007.

    Spanish energy and engineering group Abengoa will spend more than €1 billion (US$1.35 billion) over the next three years to boost its bioethanol production, Chairman Javier Salgado said on Tuesday. The firm is studying building four new plants in Europe and another four in the United States. Reuters - May 23, 2007.

    According to The Nikkei, Toyota is about to introduce flex-fuel cars in Brazil, at a time when 8 out of 10 new cars sold in the country are already flex fuel. Brazilians prefer ethanol because it is about half the price of gasoline. Forbes - May 22, 2007.

    Virgin Trains is conducting biodiesel tests with one of its diesel engines and will be running a Voyager train on a 20 percent biodiesel blend in the summer. Virgin Trains Media Room - May 22, 2007.

    Australian mining and earthmoving contractor Piacentini & Son will use biodiesel from South Perth's Australian Renewable Fuels across its entire fleet, with plans to purchase up to 8 million litres from the company in the next 12 months. Tests with B20 began in October 2006 and Piacentinis reports very positive results for economy, power and maintenance. Western Australia Business News - May 22, 2007.

    Malaysia's Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui announces he will head a delegation to the EU in June, "to counter European anti-palm oil activists on their own home ground". The South East Asian palm oil industry is seen by many European civil society organisations and policy makers as unsustainable and responsible for heavy deforestation. Malaysia Star - May 20, 2007.

    Paraguay and Brazil kick off a top-level seminar on biofuels, cooperation on which they see as 'strategic' from an energy security perspective. 'Biocombustiveis Paraguai-Brasil: Integração, Produção e Oportunidade de Negócios' is a top-level meeting bringing together the leaders of both countries as well as energy and agricultural experts. The aim is to internationalise the biofuels industry and to use it as a tool to strengthen regional integration and South-South cooperation. PanoramaBrasil [*Portuguese] - May 19, 2007.

    Portugal's Galp Energia SGPS and Petrobras SA have signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a biofuels joint venture. The joint venture will undertake technical and financial feasibility studies to set up a plant in Brazil to export biofuels to Portugal. Forbes - May 19, 2007.

    The Cypriot parliament has rejected an amendment by President Papadopoulos on the law regarding the use of biofuels that contain genetically modified substances. The amendment called for an alteration in the law that currently did not allow the import or use of biofuels that had been produced using GM substances, something that goes against a recent EU Directive on GMOs. Cyprus Mail - May 18, 2007.

    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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Monday, May 28, 2007

UK outlines Biomass Strategy: large potential for bioenergy, bioproducts

The UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Transport (DoT) have released their joint report on the potential of and strategies to exploit biomass for energy, fuels and renewable products in the UK.

The Biomass Strategy [*.pdf] was published in conjunction with the UK's Energy White Paper, and represents the government’s response to the Biomass Task Force’s report published last year. The cross-departmental report says "there is significant potential to expand the UK supply of biomass without any detrimental effect on food supplies and in a sustainable manner". However, the strategy includes a vision of international biomass and biofuels trade, in which up to half of all bioenergy is imported. To globalise the market, DEFRA, DTI and DoT will strengthen bilateral, trilateral and multilateral cooperation with countries in the South and with international bodies like the UN's Global Bioenergy Partnership.

The report is further informed by a series of additional studies, including economic, carbon and energy analyses of bioenergy sources, a report on the distribution of bioenergy crops in the UK, and a study on the potential of anaerobic digestion for the production of biogas.

These previously separate work streams have now been brought together under a single integrated Renewable Fuels and Materials programme that will focus on the sustainable development of a bioeconomy based on:
  • Bioenergy (for heat, cooling, electricity and transport biofuels)
  • Renewable and biobased construction materials
  • Renewable green chemicals (including monomers, polymers and oils)
  • Plant-based pharmaceuticals, nutriceuticals and bio-actives
The Biomass Strategy has identified a large potential for the bioeconomy in the UK. By 2030 some 25 million tonnes of oil equivalent energy (MTOE) can be obtained from domestic energy agriculture, forestry and residue streams (image 1, click to enlarge). It has found that an additional one million dry tonnes of wood per year from woodland and other wood waste products could be harvested for use in biomass power plants and biorefineries. It also assumes market forces would deliver an increase in the amount of energy crops grown to meet the UK market – with the potential to use up to a further 350,000 ha of farmland across the UK by 2020. In total, the report estimates the total land availability for biofuel and energy crops to be about 1 million hectares (2.47m acres), equivalent to 17% of the total UK arable land area. However, imports of bioenergy will play a major role to meet EU targets for renewables:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The report states that biomass will have a central role to play in meeting the EU target of 20% renewable energy by 2020. The Climate Change Bill, published in draft in March 2007, sets out a proposed UK target of at least 60% cuts in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and a strong new system of carbon budgeting. Biomass can contribute considerably to achieving these goals.

The UK government's strategy for bioenergy consists of:
  • realising a major expansion in the supply and use of biomass in the UK
  • facilitate the development of a competitive and sustainable market and supply chain
  • promote innovation and low-carbon technology development so biomass can deliver relatively higher energy yields
  • contribute to overall environmental benefits and the health of ecosystems through the achievement of multiple benefits from land use
  • facilitate a shift towards a bio-economy through sustainable growth and development of biomass use for fuels and renewable materials
  • maximise the potential of biomass to contribute to the delivery of our climate change and energy policy goals: to reduce CO2 emissions, and achieve a secure, competitive and affordable supply of fuel.

Biomass production

Delivery of the strategy will require a major expansion of biomass use and sustainable supply. It is acknowledged that increasing the supply of biomass will have implications for land use, biodiversity, landscape and a range of other environmental factors. The report thinks that a significant increase in sustainable UK biomass production, taking full account of the lessons learnt from more traditional forms of agriculture and emerging understanding of how ecosystems work, is achievable.

They aim is to seek to deliver an expansion of biomass production in a way which is consistent with an enhanced, sustainable approach to land management. This will deliver multiple environmental benefits and enhance the health of ecosystems. The authores have looked carefully at the supply side. They believe there is significant potential to expand the UK supply of biomass without any detrimental effect on food supplies and in a sustainable manner by:
  • sourcing an additional 1 million dry tonnes of wood per annum from currently unmanaged woodland in England, and from increasing the recovery of wood for energy from managed woodland and other sources of wood waste products across the UK

  • increasing the amount of perennial energy crops produced in the UK to meet market demands – with the potential to use up to a further 350,000 hectares across the UK by 20202. This brings the total land availability for biofuel and energy crops to around 1 million hectares, equivalent to 17% of total UK arable land (image 2, click to enlarge)
  • increasing supply from organic waste materials such as manures and slurries, certain organic wastes, source separated waste biomass and waste derived Solid Recovered Fuels (SRF) by expanding existing biomass supplies in this way we estimate the potential future biomass resource in the UK to be a total of approximately 96.2 TWh (8.3 Mtoe). If it is assumed UK biofuel crop production can supply half of the 5% (by volume) target for 20103 this gives a total predicted theoretical biomass resource level in the UK of around 10.0 Mtoe4. This compares with a total UK energy need of currently 165 Mtoe5. These estimates could be considered conservative.

It is clear that imports will continue to play a significant role in meeting UK energy needs, particularly for transport fuels and co-firing (electricity produced from fossil fuels co-fired with biomass). It is estimated that current annual imports account for the equivalent of some 54TWh. This figure is expected to grow.

The authors are keenly aware of the environmental risks from unsustainable production and damaging changes of land use. They fully support the EU approach of linking potential increases in biofuel targets to sustainability criteria. It is acknowledged that increasing the supply of biomass will have implications for land use, biodiversity, the environment and the landscape.

Imports will have an important role to play in meeting the demand for biomass this strategy will create and here we are taking steps to ensure sustainable practices are at the heart of our policies.

Future decisions on biomass production will require a long term view. Climate change is expected to have an impact on the biomass that will flourish in the UK over the next 50-60 years. Some existing biomass sources will cease to be viable in certain
locations while other new species can be introduced. Other sources of biomass such as certain wastes are suitable for energy recovery, including through anaerobic digestion and have an increasingly important role to play. This will expand biomass energy production and reduce the carbon impact of waste management.

Innovation to improve efficiencies
Biomass supply can also be increased through technology innovation, which can improve the efficiency of the energy conversion and reduce the delivered amount and cost of the fuels used. The technology used for heat and power generation is primarily well-established combustion technology.

This can provide heat and power reliably but at low efficiencies when compared with equivalent largerscale fossil fuel generation technologies. Further research is required into potentially more efficient energy generation technologies, such as gasification and pyrolysis.

Both Government and industry are already investing strongly in energy innovation. This includes fundamental research through to the deployment of technologies. This investment is set to rise. A new public/private sector joint venture, the Energy Technologies Institute, will be established. This will have a budget of up to £1bn over the next decade for R&D in low carbon energy technologies and demand management. A new Environmental Transformation Fund (ETF) is also being established to invest in low-carbon energy, including the demonstration and deployment of energy technologies such as bioenergy.

Supply chain development
DEFRA, DTI and DoT are committed to the ongoing development of biomass supply chains in conjunction with action to develop the bioenergy market. They are working closely with the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) on the development of regional carbon targets. The RDAs also have a key role to play in building the partnerships needed to develop supply chains as an integral part of the regional strategies for renewable energy development. This will facilitate the development of supply chains best suited to local needs and resources.

Biomass for energy
The strategy emphasises the wish to increase the use of biomass as an energy source, given its importance in the transport, heat and electricity sectors. DEFRA, DTI and DoT have looked across the different energy sectors in order to establish which represents the most effective use of biomass raw materials. The analysis shows a clear hierarchy of use in terms of cost of carbon saving (£/tonneC):
  • biomass heating is the most effective form of bioenergy, particularly in industrial and commercial applications
  • biomass combined heat and power (CHP)
  • co-fired electricity in large fossil fuel plants
  • dedicated biomass power plant
  • transport biofuels
Incentives are already in place to support the use of biomass as a renewable fuel source for heat, electricity, and transport. The nature and level of incentives vary between the different sectors, and include the Renewables Obligation (for electricity supply), the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, and grants towards the capital costs of heat, and CHP.

One conclusion of the strategy is that these incentives should be reordered to reflect this hierarchy of use of biomass. However, such an interpretation would be overly simplistic as it does not take into account the relative importance of biomass fuel sources in delivering climate change goals and targets. For example, despite their higher cost of carbon, transport biofuels are essential to carbon savings in the transport sector for which there are few other options in the short to medium term.

RTFO criteria
The RTFO, when introduced, will mean that by 2010, 5% of fuels sold on UK forecourts will come from renewable sources. DEFRA, DTI and DoT are committed to increasing the level of the planned RTFO beyond 5% after 2010/11, but only if the following conditions are met:
  • biofuels are produced in a sustainable way delivering maximum carbon savings with
  • minimum adverse environmental impacts
  • biofuel blends higher than 5% will not lead to mechanical problems in vehicles
  • costs to consumers and the wider economy will be acceptable
The hierarchy can nevertheless be applied in part. It will inform consideration of renewable energy targets, and the revisions currently being proposed to the Renewables Obligation, in particular the new system of banding support levels to promote emerging energy technologies. It also points to the need for work on whether further measures can be developed to support renewable heat (and cooling), utilising biomass sources, which the Government undertakes to do.

International cooperation
DEFRA, DTI and DoT recognise that there are many countries in which bioenergy has made a more significant contribution towards energy generation for a variety of reasons and where renewable materials are more widely used. The policy makers will continue to engage internationally to establish what lessons we can learn and will continue to play an active role to promote the sustainable use of biomass at an international level. More specifically we:

  • are committed to adopting the CEN European Standards for Solid Biofuels and Solid Recovered Fuels in England. We will support the BSI’s mirror committee in the development and transition of the standards from Technical Specifications to full European Standards (EN) to ensure they provide useable robust documents for the UK. DEFRA, DTI and DoT are working to make the solid biofuel technical specifications available as a free download through the Biomass Energy Centre website. The policy makers will support the industry and end users through a series of information documents and events, to ensure the standards are understood and integrated into everyday use.
  • will actively engage at EU and international levels with a view to developing targets for sustainable biomass renewable energy use and taking forward the agreements reached at the Spring European Council. DEFRA, DTI and DoT will continue to support the efforts of the UK-Brazil-Southern Africa Biofuels Taskforce in assisting Mozambique to implement a national biofuels strategy and thereafter development of an SADC region biofuel market.
  • will actively engage with international bioenergy fora such as the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP), the International Biofuels Forum launched recently (this involves the USA, Brazil, India, China and South Africa, with the UK represented via European Commission) and the International Energy Agency Bioenergy Implementing Agreement. This work seeks to improve co-operation and information exchange between countries with national programmes of research, development and deployment. The agreement aims to accelerate the use of environmentally sound, sustainable and cost effective bioenergy and involves 21 countries plus the EU. DEFRA, DTI and DoT will continue to contribute to the development of global sustainability criteria for biofuels through such bodies.
The report concludes that the impact of increased biomass use must be sustainable and the impact of this strategy on the environment and the utilisation of land for food production will be monitored closely. DEFRA, DTI and DoT will involve stakeholders closely in this process. However, given the evolving policy context it will be necessary to fine tune objectives and actions flowing from them to take account of changing national and international priorities. In the longer term, the ambition is to promote international collaboration on research and good practice which delivers more efficient and sustainable bioenergy production and use.

More information:
DEFRA, DTI and DoT: Biomass Strategy [*.pdf] - May 2007.

The UK Biomass Energy Centre

UK Government non-food crops and uses strategy


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