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    Brazil and the Dominican Republic have inked a biofuel cooperation agreement aimed at alleviating poverty and creating economic opportunity. The agreement initially focuses on the production of biodiesel in the Dominican Republic. Dominican Today - June 21, 2007.

    Malaysian company Ecofuture Bhd makes renewable products from palm oil residues such as empty fruit bunches and fibers (more here). It expects the revenue contribution of these products to grow by 10% this year, due to growing overseas demand, says executive chairman Jang Lim Kuang. 95% of the group's export earnings come from these products which include natural oil palm fibre strands and biodegradable mulching and soil erosion geotextile mats. Bernama - June 20, 2007.

    Argent Energy, a British producer of waste-oil based biodiesel, announced its intention to seek a listing on London's AIM via a placing of new and existing ordinary shares with institutional investors. Argent plans to use the proceeds to construct the first phase of its proposed 150,000 tonnes (170 million litres) plant at Ellesmere Port, near Chester, and to develop further plans for a 75,000 tonnes (85 million litres) plant in New Zealand. Argent Energy - June 20, 2007.

    The first conference of the European Biomass Co-firing Network will be held in Budapest, Hungary, from 2 to 4 July 2007. The purpose of the conference is to bring together scientists, engineers and members of public institutions to present the current state-of-the-art on biomass co-firing. Participants will also discuss future trends and directions in order to promote awareness of this technology as a sustainable energy supply, which could decrease the dependency on fossil fuels and guarantee a decentralised source of energy in Europe. The conference is supported by the EU-funded NETBIOCOF (Integrated European Network for Biomass Co-firing) project. NetBioCof - June 19, 2007.

    Green Energy Resources predicts US$50 per ton biomass woodchip prices within the next twelve months. The current US price level is between $25-32 per ton. Demand caused by the 25-30 new power plants planned in New England by 2010 does not include industry, institutions, universities, hospitals or conversions from natural gas, or cellulostic ethanol. Procurement of woodchips will be based on the delivery capacity of suppliers not local prices for the first time in history. Green Energy has been positioning in New England with rail and port locations to meet the anticipated sector expansion. MarketWire - June 19, 2007.

    In the first major initiative in the US to build a grassroots communications network for the advancement of biofuels adoption, a new national association called The American Biofuels Council (ABC) has been formed. American Biofuels Council - June 19, 2007.

    The Novi Sad-based Jerković Group, in partnership with the Austrian Christof Group, are to invest about €48 million (US$64.3m) in a biodiesel plant in Serbia. Property Xpress - June 19, 2007.

    Biodiesel producer D1 Oils, known for its vast jatropha plantations in Africa and Asia, is to invest CNY 500 to 700 million (€48.9-68.4 / US$65.5-91.7) to build a refinery in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, in what is expected to be the first biodiesel plant in the country using jatropha oil as a feedstock. South China Morning Post - June 18, 2007.

    After Brazil announced a record sugar crop for this year, with a decline in both ethanol and sugar prices as a result, India too is now preparing for a bumper harvest, a senior economist with the International Sugar Organization said. Raw sugar prices could fall further towards 8 cents per lb in coming months, after their 30% drop so far this year. Converting the global surplus, estimated to be 4 million tonnes, into ethanol may offer a way out of the downward trend. Economic Times India - June 18, 2007.

    After Brazil announced a record sugar crop for this year, with a decline in both ethanol and sugar prices as a result, India too is now preparing for a bumper harvest, a senior economist with the International Sugar Organization said. Raw sugar prices could fall further towards 8 cents per lb in coming months, after their 30% drop so far this year. Converting the global surplus, estimated to be 4 million tonnes, into ethanol may offer a way out of the downward trend. Economic Times India - June 18, 2007.

    A report from the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Services (USDA FAS) estimates that the production of ethanol in China will reach 1.45 million tonnes (484 million gallons US) in 2007, up 12% from 1.3 million tonnes in 2006. Plans are to increase ethanol feedstocks from non-arable lands making the use of tuber crops such as cassava and sweet sorghum. USDA-FAS - June 17, 2007.

    The Iowa State University's Extension Bioeconomy Task Force carried out a round of discussions on the bioeconomy with citizens of the state. Results indicate most people see a bright future for the new economy, others are cautious and take on a distanced, more objective view. The potential for jobs and economic development were the most important opportunities identified by the panels. Iowa is the leading producer of corn based ethanol in the US. Iowa State University - June 16, 2007.

    Biofuel producer D1 Oils Plc, known for establishing large jatropha plantations on (degraded land) in Africa and Asia, said it was in advanced talks with an unnamed party regarding a strategic collaboration, sending its shares up 7 percent, after press reports linking it with BP. Firms like BP and other large petroleum companies are keen to secure a supply of biofuel to meet UK government regulations that 5 percent of automotive fuel must be made up of biofuels by 2010. Reuters UK - June 15, 2007.

    Jean Ziegler, a U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, told a news briefing held on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council that "there is a great danger for the right to food by the development of biofuels". His comments contradict a report published earlier by a consortium of UN agencies, which said biofuels could boost the food security of the poor. Reuters - June 15, 2007.

    The county of Chicheng in China's Hebei Province recently signed a cooperative contract with the Australian investment and advisory firm Babcock & Brown to invest RMB480 million (€47.2/US$62.9 million) in a biomass power project, state media reported today. Interfax China - June 14, 2007.

    A new two-stroke ICE engine developed by NEVIS Engine Company Ltd. may nearly double fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Moreover, the engine's versatile design means it can be configured to be fuelled not only by gasoline but also by diesel, hydrogen and biofuels. PRWeb - June 14, 2007.

    Houston-based Gulf Ethanol Corp., announced it will develop sorghum as an alternative feedstock for the production of cellulosic ethanol. Scientists have developed drought tolerant, high-yield varieties of the crop that would grow well in the drier parts of the U.S. and reduce reliance on corn. Business Wire - June 14, 2007.

    Bulgaria's Rompetrol Rafinare is to start delivering Euro 4 grade diesel fuel with a 2% biodiesel content to its domestic market starting June 25, 2007. The same company recently started to distributing Super Ethanol E85 from its own brand and Dyneff brand filling stations in France. It is building a 2500 ton/month, €13.5/US$18 million biodiesel facility at its Petromidia refinery. BBJ - June 13, 2007.

    San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), a utility serving 3.4 million customers, announced it has signed a supply contract with Envirepel Energy, Inc. for renewable biomass energy that will be online by October 2007. Bioenergy is part of a 300MW fraction of SDG&E's portfolio of renewable resources. San Diego Gas & Electric - June 13, 2007.

    Cycleenergy, an Austrian bioenergy group, closed €6.7 million in equity financing for expansion of its biomass and biogas power plant activities in Central and Eastern Europe. The company is currently completing construction of a 5.5 MW (nominal) woodchip fired biomass facility in northern Austria and has a total of over 150 MW of biomass and biogas combined heat and power (CHP) projects across Central Europe in the pipeline. Cycleenergy Biopower [*.pdf] - June 12, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan unveils its plan to promote green energy, with all government vehicles in Taipei switching to E3 ethanol gasoline by September and biofuel expected to be available at all gas stations nationwide by 2011. Taipei Times - June 12, 2007.

    A large-scale biogas production project is on scheme in Vienna. 17,000 tonnes of organic municipal waste will be converted into biogas that will save up to 3000 tonnes of CO2. 1.7 million cubic meters of biogas will be generated that will be converted into 11.200 MWh of electricity per year in a CHP plant, the heat of which will be used by 600 Viennese households. The €13 million project will come online later this year. Wien Magazine [*German] - June 11, 2007.

    The annual biodiesel market in Bulgaria may grow to 400 000 tons in two to three years, a report by the Oxford Business Group says. The figure would represent a 300-per cent increase compared to 2006 when 140 000 tons of biodiesel were produced in Bulgaria. This also means that biofuel usage in Bulgaria will account for 5.75 per cent of all fuel consumption by 2010, as required by the European Commission. A total of 25 biofuel producing plants operate in Bulgaria at present. Sofia Echo - June 11, 2007.

    The Jordan Biogas Company in Ruseifa is currently conducting negotiations with the government of Finland to sell CER's under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism obtained from biogas generated at the Ruseifa landfill. Mena FN - June 11, 2007.

    Major European bank BNP Paribas will launch an investment company called Agrinvest this month to tap into the increased global demand for biofuels and rising consumption in Asia and emerging Europe. CityWire - June 8, 2007.

    Malaysian particleboard maker HeveaBoard Bhd expects to save some 12 million ringgit (€2.6/US$3.4 million) a year on fuel as its second plant is set to utilise biomass energy instead of fossil fuel. This would help improve operating margins, group managing director Tenson Yoong Tein Seng said. HeveaBoard, which commissioned the second plant last October, expects capacity utilisation to reach 70% by end of this year. The Star - June 8, 2007.

    Japan's Itochu Corp will team up with Brazilian state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA to produce sugar cane-based bioethanol for biofuels, with plans to start exporting the biofuel to Japan around 2010. Itochu and Petrobras will grow sugarcane as well as build five to seven refineries in the northeastern state of Pernambuco. The two aim to produce 270 million liters (71.3 million gallons) of bioethanol a year, and target sales of around 130 billion yen (€800million / US$1billion) from exports of the products to Japan. Forbes - June 8, 2007.

    Italian refining group Saras is building one of Spain's largest flexible biodiesel plants. The 200,000 ton per year factory in Cartagena can handle a variety of vegetable oils. The plant is due to start up in 2008 and will rely on European as well as imported feedstocks such as palm oil. Reuters - June 7, 2007.

    The University of New Hampshire's Biodiesel Group is to test a fully automated process to convert waste vegetable oil into biodiesel. It has partnered with MPB Bioenergy, whose small-scale processor will be used in the trials. UNH Biodiesel Group - June 7, 2007.

    According to the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC), the Caribbean island state has a large enough potential to meet both its domestic ethanol needs (E10) and to export to international markets. BAMC is working with state actors to develop an entirely green biofuel production process based on bagasse and biomass. The Barbados Advocate - June 6, 2007.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

'Biomass Nippon': a look at Japan's national bioenergy strategy

Anxious to protect its islands against urban pollution and to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) has launched a national programme to study the potential and promote the use of local bioenergy resources. The project is dubbed 'Biomass Nippon' and aims, for the first time, to analyse the local availability of biomass from all existing economic sectors.

The programme will actively engage in strengthening research capacities (with the establishment of experimental biorefineries), create an institutional structure and carry out policy work to facilitate the use of biomass. Because of their decentralised nature, bioenergy systems are often strongly rooted in local communities. For this reason, a comprehensive social framework will be crafted that will assess the impacts of biomass power generation on these communities.

Japan is the world's most energy efficient society, with an industrial sector that generates fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of GDP produced than any other country (earlier post). But the island state wants to go further, because being a highly industrialised country, its total GHG emissions are still quite high and Japan is very dependent on imported energy.

Biomass Nippon, which receives 265 million Yen (€1.6/US$2.1 million) annually, thus aims to contribute to the creation of a low-carbon and 'circular' economy that utilizes renewable resources in a highly efficient manner. The main reasons behind the programme are:
  1. the prevention of climate change (to which Japan is highly vulnerable): to promote the use of 'carbon-neutral' biomass which will lead to the replacement of energy and products derived from fossil fuels with alternatives, and thus to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions
  2. the creation of a recycling-oriented society: to use limited resources in an effective manner by utilizing renewable biomass, thus accelerating the process of shifting society toward one which develops in a sustainable manner
  3. fostering new strategic industries: to restructure the industrial competitiveness of Japan by creating biomass-related industries as a strategic sector that develops new products, uniquely made in Japan
  4. activation of agriculture, forestry, and fishery, as well as associated rural communities: the utilisation of national biomass resources will re-activate the primary sector, as well as stimulate the rural communities involved in the sector
Analyses by researchers who are part of the IEA's Bioenergy Task 40 study group - which assesses bioenergy trade, economics and potentials - show that in principle Japan has the smallest long-term (2050) biomass production potential of all global regions. However, the MAFF itself estimates that the country currently has around 1,300 Petajoules of renewable energy embedded in its available biomass resources (graph, click to enlarge). This is equivalent to around 35 billion liters of oil per year (roughly 600,000bpd), or 33 million tons of carbon (equivalent to 3.3 times as much as the total amount of carbon contained in all plastic materials produced in Japan).

Renewable resources
Biomass Nippon distinguishes different kinds of sources from which this biomass can be obtained and has outlined a utilisation scenario for each of them:
  1. 'Waste streams': an increased utilization of paper waste, livestock waste, food waste, construction-derived wood residues, black liquor, and sewage sludge can be promoted relatively quickly
  2. 'Unused Biomass': by around 2010, the utilization of biomass which has never been used before will become quite visible: unused portions of farm crops such as rice straw or rice husk, and forestry residues left unused at sites will be converted into biofuels and bioproducts
  3. 'Dedicated Energy Crops': by around 2020, energy crops will be widely cultivated so that they can be utilized as an energy source and for bioproducts
  4. 'New Crops': by around 2050, newly developed crops such as marine plants and genetically modified crops will contribute to an increased production of biomass
 In order to assess the potential of these resources in-depth, Japan has been divided into 9 large regions that will each host a study cell, with a national bureau centralising the data. The national office will then map resources and install 'biomass professionals' in the different regions and per sector (biomass production through forestry and agriculture; conversion into liquid, solid and gaseous fuels and bioproducts...).

Bioconversion strategies
When it comes to strategies to develop technologies to convert biomass into finished products, Biomass Nippon envisions the creation of biorefineries and of a 'cascading' strategy for the use of raw biomass:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

  1. Biorefineries: will integrate technologies in a highly efficient manner and result in the production of a diverse range of fuels and useful materials starting from a given stream of raw biomass.
  2. Cascading strategy: alongside the development of individual relevant technologies, a 'cascading' (multi-stage) use of biomass is required for the purpose of utilizing biomass resources to the fullest, by using them repeatedly, as many times as possible, from the top end to the bottom in terms of product value, and by burning them at the end of the cascade to generate energy, in as efficient a manner possible.
More specific goals for the materialization of 'Biomass Nippon' consist of setting specific goals for the parties involved so that they can promote the utilization of biomass effectively.

The MAFF will set up certain goals from technological perspectives (energy conversion efficiency, cost target of process equipment/systems, etc.), from the point of view of the local communities (such as an increase in the number of communities which utilize biomass more than a certain level), and also from the nationwide viewpoint (such as posting a clear target level of biomass utilization).
Nationwide targets have been proposed as follows: to aim at 80% or higher for the utilization of waste biomass and 25% or higher for 'unused biomass', in terms of their carbon equivalent.
Policy, promotion and institutional frameworks
The basic strategies that must make 'Biomass Nippon' a success are divided into several groups, ranging from nation-wide awareness campaigns ('sensitizing the nation', 'boosting local ingenuity'), the creation of clear definitions of the roles taken by various stakeholders (private sector, communities, government) and the design of a negotiation and debating routine amongst the stakeholders. A framework to boost competitiveness within the sector of biomass technologies will be developed as well.

Finally, 'Biomass Nippon' will set up an institutional structure and carry out policy work:

  • the establishment of the "Biomass Japan Comprehensive Strategy Promotion Council" in order to facilitate a solid promotion of the relevant strategies.
  • the establish a "Biomass Information Headquarters", which works as the central base for information
  • to study new laws needed for promoting the Biomass Nippon Strategy
  • to undertake research and development for designing a social system in which an efficient utilization of biomass is encouraged, and to conduct a demonstration test for the envisioned outcomes
  • to implement a comprehensive package of measures in model communities under a coordinated program headed by relevant government offices
 Revisions of existing legislation for several energy and waste-treatment sectors and products are needed, as well as a new look at current energy production and distribution practises. Biomass Nippon will:
  • investigate a handling procedure to be applied to bioplastics as specific procurement items covered by the Green Purchasing Law
  • arrange matters so that power generation from biomass can be handled in the same manner as other kinds of new energy under the New Energy Law
  • promote the kind of agriculture which is oriented toward environmental conservation
  • facilitate power supply by means of locally distributed power sources, including biomass power generation
  • undertake quality evaluation of biomass-derived automotive fuels, assess their safety and environmental performance, and conduct driving tests on those fuels as well as evaluate the merits and demerits of their introduction into Japan
More information:
Ecologie Caradisiac: L'empire du Soleil levant embrasse la biomasse - June 15, 2007.

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: Outline of the Biomass Nippon Strategy.


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