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    Abraaj, a Dubai-based firm, has bought the company Egyptian Fertilizers in order to benefit from rising demand for crops used to make biofuels. The Abraaj acquisition of all the shares of Egyptian Fertilizers values the company based in Suez at US$1.41 billion. Egyptian Fertilizers produces about 1.25 million tons a year of urea, a nitrogen-rich crystal used to enrich soils. The company plans to expand its production capacity by as much as 20 percent in the next two years on the expected global growth in biofuel production. International Herald Tribune - June 4, 2007.

    China and the US will soon sign a biofuel cooperation agreement involving second-generation fuels, a senior government official said. Ma Kai, director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a media briefing that vice premier Wu Yi discussed the pact with US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and other US officials during the strategic economic dialogue last month. Forbes - June 4, 2007.

    German biogas company Schmack Biogas AG reports a 372% increase in revenue for the first quarter of the year, demonstrating its fast growth. Part of it is derived from takeovers. Solarserver [*German] - June 3, 2007.

    Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC has suspended the export of 150,000 barrels per day of crude oil because of community unrest in southern Nigeria, a company spokesman said. Villagers from K-Dere in the restive Ogoniland had stormed the facility that feeds the Bonny export terminal, disrupting supply of crude. It was the second seizure in two weeks. Shell reported on May 15 that protesters occupied the same facility, causing a daily output loss of 170,000 barrels. Rigzone - June 2, 2007.

    Heathrow Airport has won approval to plan for the construction of a new 'green terminal', the buildings of which will be powered, heated and cooled by biomass. The new terminal, Heathrow East, should be completed in time for the 2012 London Olympics. The new buildings form part of operator BAA's £6.2bn 10-year investment programme to upgrade Heathrow. Transport Briefing - June 1, 2007.

    A new algae-biofuel company called LiveFuels Inc. secures US$10 million in series A financing. LiveFuels is a privately-backed company working towards the goal of creating commercially competitive biocrude oil from algae by 2010. PRNewswire - June 1, 2007.

    Covanta Holding Corp., a developer and operator of large-scale renewable energy projects, has agreed to purchase two biomass energy facilities and a biomass energy fuel management business from The AES Corp. According to the companies, the facilities are located in California's Central Valley and will add 75 MW to Covanta's portfolio of renewable energy plants. Alternative Energy Retailer - May 31, 2007.

    Two members of Iowa’s congressional delegation are proposing a study designed to increase the availability of ethanol across the country. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia., held a news conference Tuesday to announce that he has introduced a bill in the U.S. House, asking for a US$2 million study of the feasibility of transporting ethanol by pipeline. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., has introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Des Moines Register - May 30, 2007.

    A new market study by Frost & Sullivan Green Energy shows that the renewables industry in the EU is expanding at an extraordinary rate. Today biofuels and other renewables represent about 2.1 per cent of the EU's gross domestic product and account for 3.5 million jobs. The study forecasts that revenues from renewables in the world's largest economy are set to double, triple or increase even more over the next few years. Engineer Live - May 29, 2007.

    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.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Bio-Extraction and BioNex Energy team up to improve efficiency of vegetable oil extraction

Bio-Extraction Inc. (BioExx) announces it has signed a joint development agreement with BioNex Energy Corp (BEC). Under the terms of the agreement, BioExx and BEC will work together on a development study to test and prove the commercial efficacy of the BioExx vegetable oil extraction technology for use in tandem with a planned BEC biodiesel production facility to be located in western Canada. BEC is a developmental stage company which intends to use cold crushing technology in its plant as a first-stage process for removal of oil from canola (rapeseed) and other high oil-content crops, and BioExx would provide the second-stage process.

Improving the efficiency of oil extraction is an important step in boosting the life-cycle efficiency and energy balance of vegetable oil based biofuels. The first stage of oil removal will utilize the BEC process which removes approximately 80% of the oil from the biomass while maintaining a consistently low temperature. In the second and final stage of oil removal, the patented BioExx process will be employed to remove up to 100% of the remaining oil while at the same time substantially maintaining the protein value originally contained in the biomass. On a combined basis, this process could improve yields of oil volume versus existing oil-removal technologies while at the same time dramatically increasing the residual value of the biomass. In some cases, BioExx may also be able to isolate the proteins for use as protein additives in animal or fish feed and eventually for human consumption.

Testing of the process is expected to occur during the next 4 to 6 months between the BEC test facility in Alberta and at the BioExx Intermediate Sized Plant facility in Charlottetown, PEI. The intention of the test program is to prove that the two-stage oil removal process is successful in:
  • removing a much higher percentage of the available oil
  • removing the oil using low temperature extraction such that the incumbent proteins and other nutritive content of the biomass is retained
Typically, oil is separated from biomass or crops using an extraction method that involves heat, pressure and organic solvents. Two traditional oil extraction methods exist:
Hexane and other organic solvents: the most widely used technology involves the use of a highly flammable, organic solvent called hexane (a mineral oil hydrocarbon component of gasoline) as the medium for extraction. The residual hexane is recovered (usually not completely) from the extracted/spent biomasses by heating the biomasses to high temperature and or using steam. This degrades the quality and value of the compounds and products that remain in the solvent extracted biomasses. Because of environmental and safety issues, it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain operating permits for new traditional solvent facilities and or to continue operating such extraction facilities in both North America and Europe.

Supercritical fluid extraction: the other major extraction technology used for certain extractions is Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE). While environmentally friendly, SFE operates at extremely high pressures, making it expensive in terms of operating and capital cost. In most cases it is not nearly as effective or efficient as BioExx in extracting oils from plant matter or industrial materials. In addition the SFE requires higher operating temperatures which may degrade and reduce the value and yield of the other products that may be extracted from the spent biomasses.
These processes tends to enjoy yields of 95% or more of the oil contained in the oilseeds and are quite efficient at very large scale. Once the oil is removed, the remaining material, ("spent biomass", "oil cake") is heated to high temperatures to recover the organic solvent. This high temperature process significantly degrades the proteins and reduces the nutritive value of the meal. The meal is then sold at moderate prices for use as animal feed. Unfortunately, when crop prices rise at a faster rate than the underlying fuel price, profit margins from these conventional facilities can be significantly eroded. The BioExx technology (comparison, table 1, click to enlarge) represents an improvement over conventional technology because it has the capability to remove up to 100% of the oil but at a significantly reduced operating temperature while retaining all of the nutritive content of the spent biomass:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The spent biomass resulting from this process can have substantially higher value because they can be sold as higher quality animal feeds or other higher value protein applications and products. The BioExx technology may therefore have the potential to fundamentally improve the economics of bio-diesel manufacturing operations, while at the same time mitigating the increasingly prominent "food versus fuel" conflict over global crop usage.

"We are very pleased to be working with BEC as an early-stage entry partner for our bio-diesel sector applications. In a relatively young industry, they have a strong team of veterans, and we look forward to their guidance and experience for the testing of the BioExx technology for use in Bio-Diesel applications," said BioExx CEO, Chris Carl. "We are optimistic that this development project will provide all of the data needed to prove, at a small commercial scale, that our patented technology is commercially superior to any other known oil extraction process, and that in turn, BioExx has the potential to meaningfully alter the economics of the production of biodiesel on a global basis."

BEC is a privately owned developer and operator of integrated oil seed crushing and biodiesel production facilities. The first project in Alberta will have an annual production capacity of 20 million litres of biodiesel, 30,000 tonnes of canola meal and 2,000 tonnes of glycerine. BEC believes the appropriate market entry strategy is to build a modular plant that can expand quickly to meet market demands and then to develop a number of distributed plants across Alberta that work closely with local grower groups. The biodiesel produced will then be shipped to terminal facilities for blending into petrodiesel. BEC was formed by ex-employees of the Advanced Biodiesel Group NA Ltd, is based in Calgary and has a senior management team experienced in biodiesel production, project development, commodity trading and business management.

"Our team has great depth of experience and we understand the commercial challenges that must be met to build a sustainable biodiesel business. Technology selection is a critical part of this challenge and, having searched the globe for the best technology available for efficient and effective oil extraction for biodiesel manufacturing, we have found nothing that compares to the what appears possible with the BioExx technology," said John Simpson, President of BEC.

"The prospect of extracting the maximum available oil and retaining all of the original nutritive value, in an environmentally responsible manner, is absolutely unique. To be successful in the production of bio-diesel, a product subject to increasing worldwide demand, we must find technologies that can substantially lower the overall production costs compared to current methods. At BEC, our goal is to develop projects that use best available technologies and to combine this with superior resource management to allow for lowest cost, highest value production of bio-diesel and related products. As our tests prove conclusive, we look forward to working with BioExx in an increasing array of exciting development projects", he added.


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