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    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.

    Energea, BioDiesel International and the Christof Group - three biodiesel producers from Austria - are negotiating with a number of Indonesian agribusiness companies to cooperate on biodiesel production, Austrian Commercial Counselor Raymund Gradt says. The three Austrian companies are leading technology solution providers for biodiesel production and currently produce a total of 440,000 tons of biodiesel per annum in Austria, more than half of their country’s annual demand of around 700,000-800,000 tons. In order to meet EU targets, they want to produce biodiesel abroad, where feedstocks and production is more competitive. BBJ - June 6, 2007.

    China will develop 200 million mu (13.3 million hectares) of forests by 2020 in order to supply the raw materials necessary for producing 6 million tons of biodiesel and biomass per year, state media reported today. InterFax China - June 6, 2007.

    British Petroleum is planning a biofuel production project in Indonesia. The plan is at an early stage, but will involve the establishment of an ethanol or biodiesel plant based on sugarcane or jatropha. The company is currently in talks with state-owned plantation and trading firm Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia (RNI) as its potential local partner for the project. Antara - June 6, 2007.

    A pilot project to produce biodiesel from used domestic vegetable oil is underway at the Canary Technological Institute in Gran Canaria. Marta Rodrigo, the woman heading up the team, said the project is part of the EU-wide Eramac scheme to encourage energy saving and the use of renewable energy. Tenerife News - June 6, 2007.

    Royal Dutch Shell Plc is expanding its fuel distribution infrastructure in Thailand by buying local petrol stations. The company will continue to provide premium petrol until market demand for gasohol (an petrol-ethanol mixture) climbs to 70-90%, which will prove customers are willing to switch to the biofuel. "What we focus on now is proving that our biofuel production technology is very friendly to engines", a company spokesman said. Bangkok Post - June 5, 2007.

    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.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Boeing to fly aircraft on 50% biofuels blend

In an in-depth interview, US plane-maker Boeing has told EurActiv of its plans to fly aircraft on a 50% biofuels blend in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint and to overcome the future threat of 'Peak Oil'. However, the company says that it does not expect much from the inclusion of aviation in the EU's CO2-trading scheme.

EurActiv - the leading EU-centered news service - spoke to Billy Glover, managing director for environmental strategy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

A few years ago, energy specialists would have laughed at the idea of using biofuels in jet aircraft. Today, a growing group of university researchers, airforces (Argentina , US) , biofuel companies and airlines are developing and testing sustainably produced bio-based fuels for aviation. Boeing is fully committed to join these efforts. It is collaborating with, amongst others, Nasa and researchers in Brazil who are developing bio-jet fuel from Babassu, and mentions different other sustainable bio-jet fuel production paths in its recent publication 'Alternate Fuels for use in Commercial Aircraft' [*.pdf].

Amongst the most promising alternative fuels for aircraft are synthetic fuels obtained from the Fischer-Tropsch process which liquefies synthesis gas derived from fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal. But these synfuels do not reduce CO2 emissions. Synthetic biofuels - obtained from the gasification and liquefaction of biomass - do as do vegetable oil based fatty acid methyl-esters. According to Boeing, a blend of synfuels and biofuels makes it possible in the future to replace petroleum-based jet-fuels (image, click to enlarge).

Some excerpts from the interview:

EurActiv: Talking about fuels - Are you also looking at ways to diversify the fuel mix in the aviation sector? I hear biofuels are now being considered for use in airplanes as well as in cars...
This is one of the new developments that we're really excited about. Just a few weeks ago – on 24 April – we announced that we are working on a biofuel-flight demonstration, together with Virgin Atlantic and General Electric, scheduled for 2008. We are in the testing phase right now, sorting through dozens of samples of different types of fuels to select the one that we'll use for the biofuel demonstration.

Normally, due to the chemical composition these types of fuels freeze more easily than crude oil processed fuel. So we have to do some extra processing. We are looking at different blends of biofuels with more conventional sources of fuel. If you can run the plane on a 50% blend, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint by maybe 20-25% on that day. So while we may not get the full benefit, we will achieve a partial benefit in terms of carbon reduction. We are aiming to achieve properties that look like, act like, and perform like today's fuel, and therefore can be used in today's planes.

EurActiv: What timeframe are you looking at to achieve the 50% blend? Will it be short term or long term?

The blend can be used as soon as it's available, in all the airplanes that are already flying, without modification. No major changes of distribution networks, storage networks will be necessary.

This does not mean that in ten years' time you will be able to buy bio-fuel blend everywhere. It will take time for the processing capacity to rise, to have the right amount of plant stock and the processing capability. But what we can foresee is that within 10 years, there will be certain airports with fuel tanks where this blend will be available. When you fly to that airport, that’s the fuel you get. When you fly to another airport, you might get a more conventional fuel.

The 50% blend figure is our target. We'd like to go to 100%, but we don't believe that is technically feasible at the moment. For the biofuels demonstration that we’ll do next year, we'll actually test the 50% blend in the lab. If it doesn't have the properties that we need, then we’ll try a 40% blend, and then we’ll try a 30% blend, but hopefully we’ll be close to 50% and get the performance we need.

EurActiv: How many airports do you expect will have the blend available ten years from now? Will they be in Europe mainly, or do you expect them to be in the US, or elsewhere?
I expect the blend to be available in different places at different points in time - depending on the entrepreneurs, the different types of feed stock. There will probably be different types of blends around the world, depending on the feed stock that is most available in the region and the required processes:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

EurActiv: Would you expect a country like Brazil – which is a leader in biofuels – to provide a lot of it?
Yes. They're working actively on this:

EurActiv: Has the US got specific targets on this?
There are no specific targets for jet fuel in the US. This is just in the feasibility stage. But there are fuel providers in the US working on this as there are in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region.

EurActiv: What about sustainability issues – the competition with food crops for example, which has already put pressure on corn prices in some countries?
We do have criteria to make sure we're not competing with food users, to make sure that there are adequate yields so you’re not using up land that's otherwise occupied. To make sure you’re not using up water resources and that you’re not displacing forests or indigenous plants.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (the FAA) recently chaired a conference [in October 2006] which launched the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI). It laid out what they called the 'road map' which looked out over 20-30 years to assess what would need to be done in R&D, regulatory framework to industrialise and commercialise alternative fuels. The road map has been an act of collaboration for the parties involved on a voluntary basis.

We looked at the road map, and it actually contained a flight demonstration for bio-fuel, which was planned in five years. That inspired us to see if we could do better, and it resulted in setting the goal and getting partners lined up to actually do a flight demonstration next year. It may not be the only one – I hope it won't be the only one – but it's a start.

European Emissions Trading Scheme
EurActiv: Air traffic is attracting increasing attention from politicians due to concerns about global warming. How can aircraft manufacturers help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions? How is the reduction-potential broken down between engine improvement and other areas?
Improvement of the engines, more efficient structures and advanced aerodynamics and systems each contribute roughly a third to efficiency gains.

Together with the engine manufacturers, we work very aggressively on new designs and new technology to stretch targets on fuel efficiency. Aerodynamics are fundamental to a plane. This is how efficiently you 'lift' the aircraft. The more robust the aerodynamics, the better you are on fuel efficiency, CO2 efficiency and noise. Advanced structures and materials determine how much lighter you can make the plane. The fuselage of our newest 787 Dreamliner plane, for instance, is made primarily of carbon-fiber composite materials. This material is much lighter and stronger, reducing the overall weight. Weight reduction is most important for environmental performance.

One of the big trends is advanced electric systems. Airplanes in the past have relied heavily on hydraulic and pneumatic technology. Electric technology lets you be more precise in your control. You can control the air conditioning more precisely, for instance, by extracting power from the engines to run the air conditioning. So if we can run the air conditioning with an electric resource instead of taking the air off the engine, it means that we're more efficient.

A big issue in Europe is air-traffic management. A study by Eurocontrol says that we could achieve up to 12% reduction in CO2 emissions with the implementation of an efficient ATM system. That doesn't require any new aircraft, or any new technology, it is a policy issue.

Boeing is partnering with airports, airlines and civil aviation authorities at various international airports to improve airport operational efficiencies, for example by implementing Continuous Descent Arrival procedures. These approach paths reduce the exposure to aircraft noise and reduce fuel consumption and associated emissions. Almost every airport is unique in its geography, the amount of traffic at different times of the day – and you have different organisations involved from airport to airport, so it will take some time to implement this everywhere.

Fuels, airplanes, air-traffic management and ground operations are improving. All are important. Air-traffic management improvements represent the greatest short-term opportunities for significant reductions in CO2 emissions.

EurActiv: How will the inclusion of aviation in the EU carbon-trading systems (Emissions Trading Scheme - ETS) make an impact on Boeing's business?
The ETS proposal would require airlines to have allocations and credits for their emissions. Our aim – regardless of the details – is to provide efficient solutions.

Efficient solutions can involve new products, if airlines 'change out' their fleet over an investment period to significantly reduce their carbon emissions. Or it can involve working to improve operations – ground operations or flight operations – or it can involve working with air traffic management. Eurocontrol, for instance, has set some targets. Boeing is actively involved in working on the Single European Sky.

EurActiv: Obviously the EU-ETS will encourage new technology, so clearly that must be good news for you. Do you expect any extra business or a direct impact on orders?
We are already sold out until 2011, so we can't produce any more. It's a long-term market, orders are made far in advance…

EurActiv: So, are you planning to extend production capacity, then?
We're very cautious, and carefully consider changes in capacity, because it’s a significant investment and it's a long supply chain. And we're just very cautious about ramping production up and down. It has a massive impact if you don't get it right.

EurActiv: Do you have particular concerns regarding the inclusion of aviation in the EU-ETS?
One of our concerns is to make sure we have a global solution. We can’t design for 25% of the market very effectively, because it splits our resources. Global policy solutions are preferable due to the global nature of aviation. We would like to see these issues worked on at an international level, and in adherence to principles and findings of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, to the maximum extent possible.

EurActiv: Obviously, no market will require you to pollute more than in the neighbouring country, so why wouldn’t you adapt your whole fleet to the stricter EU standard?

Let me give you an example. London Heathrow has very strict noise rules called the 'quota-count system' - the QC system. In order to meet some of those rules, you have to make compromises in the design. So, it's been a well-publicised fact during the case of the A380 that the design of the engine, and the nacelle and so on, had to be adjusted to meet London noise at a higher fuel burn. So, CO2 was sacrificed in order to meet noise-requirements for the community that lives around London. Is that a good trade for the climate? That's the kind of question that drives us to say that global solutions are the better solutions.

EurActiv: So in a nutshell, you don't expect much impact from ETS inclusion on your business?
As an aircraft manufacturer and as a technology company, we're always trying to be ahead, developing and introducing new technologies to create better environmental performance for commercial jetliners, regardless of policy discussions. If you're in an industry such as ours, with lead times like ours, you think long ahead.

The bio-fuels research we started wasn't particularly triggered by a discussion about ETS. You have to continuously make improvements to be competitive. The regulatory framework should recognise that we are already working as fast as we can to make improvements.

Excerpts copyright of EurActiv, 2007.

More information:
EurActiv: Boeing 'really excited' about biofuels - June 14, 2007

US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): Alternative Fuels in Commercial Aviation [*.pdf]

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO): Information paper - The potential use of alternative fuels for aviation - January 14, 2007

Boeing: Alternate Fuels for use in Commercial Aircraft [*.pdf] - s.d. 2007


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