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    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.

    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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Sunday, June 10, 2007

China considers discontinuing coal-to-liquids projects

A recent study from the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center (CEIC) in the U.S. concludes that while enacting policies to subsidize the production of coal-to-liquids (CTL) transportation fuel would enhance national security by lowering oil imports, encouraging plug-in hybrids powered by coal-generated electricity is a less costly policy that also reduces oil imports and does more to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

China, which is rich in coal but poor in petroleum and gas, has been on the forefront of experimenting with CTL fuels, but may put an early end to these projects, an official with the country's top economic planning agency has said (precisely because of some the reasons summed up in the CEIC's and similar studies).

The consideration came at a seminar hosted by Chinese Academy of Engineering, which looked at alternative fuels, in particular biofuels, and their role in the country's long-term energy security. Denmark-based Novozymes, the world's leader in enzymes and microorganisms used for the production of biofuels, was present.

After an evaluation of the nation's limited energy resources and its environmental status, a deputy director of the industry department of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) told the seminar held in Beijing that "liquefied coal projects consume a lot of energy, though the successful industrialization of liquefied coal could help reduce the country's dependence on petroleum."

The liquefaction of coal is not only energy intensive but also results in a large amount of GHGs. The CEIC full life-cycle analysis of gasoline obtained from coal shows that the fuel results in complete 'well-to-wheel' emissions of 360 pounds CO2 equivalent per MMBtu of gasoline in the worst-case scenario and 220 pounds CO2 equivalent per MMBtu of gasoline in the best-case scenario (converted into annual CTL gasoline emissions: 1.18 lbs/mile (536.7 g/mi) in the worst case; 0.72 lbs/mile (325 g/mi) in the best case). This compares negativey with the well-to-wheel emissions of 264.6 g/mile for the conventional coal-generated electricity used in plug-in hybrids; 105.8 g/mile for the scenario with plug-in hybrids using electricity from advanced Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS). The baseline for conventional gasoline was 344 g/mile (graph, click to enlarge).

In short, converting coal into liquid fuels is not a particularly sensitive thing for a country that is set to become the world's largest emittor of GHG's. The Chinese government said earlier it would invest more in developing alternative energy resources including biomass fuel and liquefied coal to substitute petroleum during the 11th Five-Year Program (2006-2010) period, amid concerns over the country's growing dependence on petroleum. But criticism in China over CTL-plans has been growing steadily (here):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

China, the world's second-largest energy consumer, imported 162.87 million tons of oil in 2006, driving the country's reliance on imported oil up 4.1 percentage points from a year earlier to reach 47 percent, official statistics show.

The country is also confronted with huge capital demand and higher consumption of water and coal in producing the liquefied coal, the official said. A project in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region with a designed capacity of 1.08 million tons would need more than 50 billion yuan (US$6.58 billion) of investment, according to the NDRC's deputy director for industry.

He said the country had begun the coal-liquefying projects without trial industrialization operation, and the technologies involved were not sophisticated yet. And both coal and petroleum are non-renewable energy resources, he added. However, the country has never slackened its efforts to find substitutes for petroleum.

China said last week it had successfully excavated methane hydrates (also known as natural gas ice) from below the floor of the South China Sea after nine years of research in this field. Recovering these gas hydrates remains risky and requires much more research before being commercialised on any scale.

Meanwhile, China wants to meet its growing energy needs while reducing fossil fuel consumption as much as possible. The Chinese government therefor recently announced, in its first climate plan, it upheld the development of renewable resources as an important national strategy, and would continue to boost the development of biomass fuels and biogas, hydro-power, solar and wind power.

An ambitious biofuel project announced earlier this year consists of the establishment of a biomass forest the size of England (13 million hectares) in the province of Yunnan from which the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) will extract an estimated three-quarters of a million barrels per day of liquid biofuels.

Multinationals like South-Africa's Sasol, a pioneer in coal-to-liquids technolgy, has partnered with Chinese companies on a CTL project in the country, as has Royal Dutch Shell.

More information:

Xinhua: China may halt production of liquefied coal - June 10, 2007.

Paulina Jaramillo and Constantine Samaras, "For energy security and greenhouse gas reductions, plugin hybrids a more sensible pathway than coal-to-liquids gasoline", Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center, April 2007.


Anonymous said...

It would be very interesting to see the CO2 per mile figure for use of CTL motor fuel is carbon capture and sequestration were to be applied to the CTL process, if possible.

Until that information is added to the study, it seems that there is an important piece missing to the puzzle.

Of course, nothing is said here about the cost. Adding CCS to CTL processing would add considerable cost, but that is also the case for IGCC with CCS.

Do you have information on that comparison?

4:59 PM  
Jaime said...

That's right, but it would be even better if a full life-cycle analysis were to be made including biomass-to-liquids with carbon storage (either CCS or terra preta).

Likewise, biomass electricity (again with CCS) should be included in such an analysis, as should co-firing with coal (+CCS).

More work needed. But from the data it becomes apparent that plug-in hybrids may be most climate-friendly in any case.

5:32 PM  

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