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    AltraBiofuels, a California-based producer of renewable biofuels, announced that it has secured an additional US$165.5 million of debt financing for the construction and completion of two plants located in Coshocton, Ohio and Cloverdale, Indiana. The Coshocton plant's capacity is anticipated to reach 60million gallons/year while the Cloverdale plant is expected to reach 100 million gallons/year. Business Wire - June 23, 2007.

    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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Saturday, June 23, 2007

German consortium starts production of ultra-clean synthetic biofuels

A group of German research organisations has begun [*German] producing the primary feedstock for high-quality synthetic biofuels from different types of biomass. The process to obtain such 'biomass-to-liquid' (BtL) fuels was named 'bioLiq' and consists of two steps: a decentralised phase in which raw biomass is transformed close to the source of harvest into an oil with a high energy density via fast-pyrolysis. The resulting bio-oil can then be transported economically to a central facility where it is gasified and liquefied via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis into a range of finished fuel products. The process allows for the production of fuels with properties similar to diesel or gasoline, with the difference that the synthetic biofuels are ultra-clean and renewable.

The Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe (FZK) and Lurgi AG have been designing and building the fast-pyrolysis pilot plant for the past two years. During the inauguration last week (June 20) both organisations signed an agreement to build the gasification and liquefaction plant needed to perform the second stage of the production. The work is being supported by the Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (Agency for Renewable Materials, of Germany's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Consumer protection).

The fast-pyrolysis plant can transform 500 kilograms of biomass per hour. It is a test-bed for commercial plants which will convert up to 50 tons per hour. Part of the second-stage of the process (gasification into synthesis gas) is carried out by a third partner, Future Energy in Freiberg.

Synthetic biofuels are based on renewable biomass, which is why they do not add CO2 to the atmosphere when they are combusted. But aside from their carbon-neutrality, they also have properties that far surpass those of petroleum based fuels and other biofuels: they are sulphur-free, low aromatic and odourless fuels that significantly reduce regulated and non-regulated vehicle pollutant emissions (NOx, SOx, PM, VOC, CO). They can be readily used in existing fuelling infrastructures and engines, but they also enable the development of a new generation of internal combustion engine technologies with improved engine efficiency and further reduction of vehicle pollutant emissions. Synthetic biofuels are readily biodegradable and non-toxic.

Decentralised production
The two-stage bioLiq process developed by the FZK is a first step towards the large-scale adoption of synthetic biofuels in Germany, where they are estimated to have the potential to replace up to 15% of all transport fuels by 2015 and 35% by 2030 (estimates by the German Energy Agency - earlier post).

The main bottleneck in the production chain of BtL fuels is the low energy density of biomass feedstocks such as wood chips, straw, paper, pulp and other residues from agriculture, forestry and industry. By placing fast-pyrolysis plants near the biomass source the residues can be transformed into bio-oil (pyrolysis oil) the energy density of which is 13 to 15 times higher. Transporting raw biomass over distances larger than 25 kilometres is economically unattractive, with bio-oil the range can be extended by a factor of 10 and more.
This decentralised concept makes it possible to transform biomass into a bio-oil while using existing agricultural production chains and structures. Part of the added value chain is thus kept local, close to the biomass source. - Dr. Ludolf Plass, Chief of Technological Development of Lurgi AG
The decentralised fast-pyrolysis step consists of heating the biomass in the absence of air to a temperature of 500°C after which pyrolysis oil and tar is obtained. Both materials are then mixed into a liquid suspension ('bioliqSyncrude') ready to be shipped to the gasification and Fischer-Tropsch plant:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Central facility
There, the bioliqSyncrude is gasified in an entrained flow gasifier at temperatures of up to 1200 °C and pressures of 80bar to obtain a tar-free synthesis gas, which consists mainly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Future Energy based in Freiberg has tested and improved its 5MW gasifier over the past years in such a way that it has become possible to transfer the high pressure synthesis gas directly to the next synthesis steps. An intermediate compression step - which is costly and risky - is thereby avoided.

The synthesis gas can be converted into a broad range of platform chemicals. Via the Fischer-Tropsch process it can be transformed into synthetic fuels. A process to convert the gas into methanol, an intermediate material for other fuels, was developed as well. This way, a series of 'designer fuels' can be made with properties similar to fuels from the entire spectrum of middle distillates found in traditional oil refining. The synthetic biofuels are much cleaner, less damaging to the environment, and emit far fewer of all the common emissions. Synthetic biofuels are also cleaner than first generation types of biodiesel and bioethanol. They promise to allow countries to reach their targets for the use of low-carbon fuels, part of the effort to mitigate climate change.

The technology to transform synthesis gas into liquid fuels - the Fischer-Tropsch process - was developed in the 1930s in Germany, when oil was scarce. Coal was used as a feedstock, but that would be problematic today. Renewable biomass can readily substitute coal, but it has taken a while before researchers found the most optimal ways to use different types of it as a feedstock. It is important to know and standardize the properties of the primary bio-oil (bioliqSyncrude) obtained from many different sources of biomass, because once this oil has been produced there is no way back and it will be used 'as is' in the gasification and liquefaction stage.
This is why the fast-pyrolysis pilot plays such a crucial role in the entire project. It allows us to test and optimize the transformation of different types biomass. With Lurgi AG we have found a partner who has been developing the technology for years and who has made several key innovations - Professor Dr. Eckhard Dinjus, Director of the Instituts für Technische Chemie, part of the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe.
Lurgi AG began experimenting with the fast-pyrolysis of coal and petroleum products in the 1970s. Today it is a leader in the use of the same process on biomass. The same company has also been instrumental in the growth of the biodiesel and bioethanol industry and has built a large number of plants throughout Europe.

The two-stage bioliq process has received a lot of attention from the political, industrial and business communities. Besides the German auto-industry and players in the petrochemical sector, investors from across Europe and beyond have shown interest, partly because the bioliq-concept received the prestigious "BlueSky Award" from the UNIDO, in 2006. The UNIDO is a UN agency that deals with industrial development; the award is given to organisations which develop breakthrough technologies that might benefit mankind as a whole.

The award points to the fact that the technology can be used in the developing world, where large streams of unused biomass are available. Transforming these raw resources into bio-oil allows for the creation of an export oriented biofuels industry, in which the Global South benefits from its competitive advantages in the agricultural sector.

The costs for the production of these next-generation synthetic biofuels is estimated to be around 50 eurocent. To this must be added the costs for the raw biomass which are estimated to be slightly lower but in the same range. This way, the total costs for the high-tech fuels will be below 1 Euro per liter.

The Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe is a member of the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft, an organisation uniting 15 of Germany's top research institutions. Its annual budget is around €2.1 billion, making it the largest scientific organisation in the country. A total of 24,000 scientists, researchers and other staff work for the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft in fields ranging from materials sciencies, the environment and Earth sciences, transport, health, energy and new key technology fields such as nanotechnology.

Translated and adapted by Jonas Van Den Berg and Laurens Rademakers

: the fast-pyrolis plant at the FZK in Karlsruhe. Courtesy: Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe.

Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft: bioliq® – Stroh im Tank! - June 20, 2007.

Lurig AG: Lurgi making fuel from biomass - June 21, 2007.

Biopact: German Energy Agency: biomass-to-liquids can meet up to 35% of Germany's fuel needs by 2030 - December 15, 2006


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