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    Beijing Tiandi Riyue Biomass Technology Corp. Ltd. has started construction on its new fuel ethanol project in the county of Naiman in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region's Chifeng City, the company's president told Interfax today. Interfax China - June 26, 2007.

    W2 Energy Inc. announces it will begin development of biobutanol from biomass. The biofuel will be manufactured from syngas derived from non-food biomass and waste products using the company's plasma reactor system. Market Wire - June 26, 2007.

    Finland based Metso Corporation, a global engineering firm has received an order worth €60 million to supply two biomass-fired power boilers to Portugal's EDP Producao - Bioeléctrica, S.A. The first boiler (83 MWth) will be installed at Celbi’s Figueira da Foz pulp mill and the second boiler (35 MWth) at Caima’s pulp mill near the city of Constância. Both power plants will mainly use biomass, like eucalyptus bark and forest residues, as fuel to produce together approximately 40 MWe electricity to the national grid. Both boilers utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology. Metso Corporation - June 26, 2007.

    Canada's New Government is investing more than $416,000 in three southern Alberta projects to help the emerging biofuels industry. The communities of Lethbridge, Drumheller and Coalhurst will benefit from the projects. Through the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI), the three firms will receive funding to prepare feasibility studies and business plans to study the suitability of biofuels production according to location and needs in the industry. MarketWire - June 26, 2007.

    U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is expected to announce today that Michigan State and other universities have been selected to share $375 million in federal funding to develop new bioenergy centers for research on cellulosic ethanol and biomass plants. More info soon. Detroit Free Press - June 26, 2007.

    A Kerala based NGO has won an Ashden Award for installing biogas plants in the state to convert organic waste into a clean and renewable source of energy at the household level. Former US vice president Al Gore gave away the award - cash prize of 30,000 pounds - to Biotech chief A. Saji at a ceremony in London on Friday. New Kerala - June 25, 2007.

    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.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Presenting the Alliance for Synthetic Fuels in Europe

The development of ultra-clean synthetic fuels has been speeding up lately, with the first pilot plants actually coming online and a series of cooperation agreements being signed between major research organisations. A new initiative is now joining the forces of some of Europe's leading automotive and fuel supply companies into the Alliance for Synthetic Fuels in Europe (ASFE).

The ASFE members especially seek political and fiscal support from EU and national policy makers for the introduction and increased penetration of all synthetic fuels, including synthetic biofuels, and more specifically to:
  • Acknowledge BtL production could provide Europe with a new and sustainable business in the agricultural sector for the production of low carbon fuels
  • Include GtL fuel, in addition to BtL fuel, as an alternative fuel that can help EU reach its 2020 alternative fuel targets
  • Put in place mechanisms to help achieve alternative fuels targets in a cost effective manner
  • Recognise GtL will pave the way for BtL commercialisation
  • Increase support, including R&D, for BtL production pathways
  • Increase R&D support for advanced engines optimised around synthetic fuels
  • Recognise advanced fuel and engine technologies could provide European industry with new business opportunities
Synthetic fuels are new generation of near zero sulphur and aromatics transport fuels made with the Fischer Tropsch process from natural gas (Gas-to-Liquids, GtL), coal (Coal-to-Liquids, CtL) or biomass (Biomass-to-Liquids, BtL). The process (schematic, click to enlarge) consists of gasifying the feedstock to obtain syngas (consisting mainly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide), which is then fed into a Fischer-Tropsch reactor where the gas is synthesized into liquids. The resulting fuels can be upgraded and 'designed' to have particular properties.

Towards ultra-clean, carbon-negative BtL fuels
Industry studies show that life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the GtL process are comparable to a refinery system (+/- 5%). CtL has a carbon penalty, which can be reduced through CO2 sequestration. By linking development of advanced engine and synthetic fuels production technology it is expected that greater vehicle efficiency gains will lead to further reductions in CO2 emissions.

When made from biomass, synthetic fuels become renewable and reduce GHG emissions by between 60 and 90% (graph, click to enlarge). Compared to first generation biofuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol (when made from crops grown in the EU), this is a considerable improvement of the GHG balance. BtL processes can be combined with CO2 sequestration techniques, in which case synthetic biofuels can even become carbon-negative. This means they can take historic CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

But regardless of the feedstock, all paraffinic Fischer-Tropsch fuels have properties that make them superior to petroleum based fuels (graph, click to enlarge). They share the following properties :
  • sulphur-free, low aromatic, odourless, colourless liquid synthetic fuels
  • allow significant reduction of regulated and non-regulated vehicle pollutant emissions (NOx, SOx, PM, VOC, CO)
  • contribute to oil substitution, diversification and security of energy supply
  • can be used in existing diesel fuelling infrastructure
  • can be used in existing diesel engines
  • enable the development of new generation of internal combustion engine technologies with improved engine efficiency and further reduction of vehicle pollutant emissions
  • are readily biodegradable, and non-toxic
Because they can be made from a renewable feedstock - cellulosic biomass - synthetic biofuels represent a critical step on the path to a European future of sustainable, green and clean mobility.

Over the longer term, for environmental, energy security and continued economic development reasons petroleum derived transport fuels will need to be supplemented by alternative fuels. ASFE's vision is for synthetic fuels to play a bridging role from today’s conventional fuels to the future renewable transportation fuels and associated vehicle technologies.

Once commercially available, BtL is expected to contribute a reduction in CO2 of up to 90% compared to crude oil derived fuels. As synthetic fuels share a large part of the production technology, they provide a continuous development path to a low-carbon transport future. Synthetic fuels are compatible with hybrid engine technologies and, thanks to their unique properties, could enable advanced combustion engine technology such as homogeneous combustion.

Further objectives of the organisation are to support research into the fuels, projects demonstrating the benefits of synthetic fuels including vehicle trials, co-operation with governments and promotion of public awareness.

ASFE members are Bosch, DaimlerChrysler, Renault, Shell, Sasol Chevron and Volkswagen.

Images: all graphs and images courtesy of the ASFE.

The Alliance for Synthetic Fuels in Europe, website.

A closer look at the history behind the Fischer-Tropsch process can be found at the FT Archives.


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