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    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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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

War-torn Sudan to become major sugar, ethanol producer

Oil brings conflict and poverty, biofuels bring stability and prosperity. The adage seems superficial, but war-torn Sudan could become the unlikely place where the words materialise into deeds. This largest of African countries is often associated with droughts and human-made humanitarian disasters. But Darfur aside, things are changing very rapidly in this nation of 40 million people, 80% of who make a living in agriculture. The South of the country, enjoying a fragile peace and political autonomy after 25 years of civil war with the North, is actually very lush, green and suitable for a range of crops. South Sudan is only now beginning to understand that it can become a major agricultural producer.

One of the priorities is to increase sugar production. Experts recently outlined the country's plans to boost the sector's output ten-fold to an annual 10 million tonnes by 2015, up from some 850,000 tonnes at present. The vast African nation could eventually end up producing twice that - a staggering amount that would put Sudan in the top-five of world producers alongside Brazil, India and the EU. Obviously, when sugar plans are announced nowadays, biofuels are in the air. And indeed, Sudan is expected to legalise the blending of ethanol in gasoline by July.

Speaking at a three-day International Sugar Organization (ISO) meeting in Mauritius, Hassan Hashim Erwa, marketing manager for the Kenana Sugar Company representing Sudan listed the projects that will be implemented. Kenana is owned mainly by Arab government investors (ironically, that is, people with links to OPEC).

Jobs, health, education and... ethanol
The majority of 13 projects included in a 10-year strategy to produce the 10 milllon tonnes are south of Khartoum between the White and Blue Niles. "By 2015, we will be ready to produce 10 million tonnes," Erwa said. "The capacity of Sudan could go to 20 million." Part of Sudanese agricultural reforms, the projects are expected to create 700,000 jobs and to improve health and education for three million people, Erwa said. This opportunity for socio-economic development is of course much welcome in a country that has just come out of a devastating civil war and that is rebuilding its society.

The largest of the projects, the Eljazeera project, was aiming to produce 2.9 million tonnes of sugar and 205 million litres of ethanol per year, he said. Sudan, which produces 330,000 barrels per day of crude oil, is expected to legalise the blending of ethanol with petrol in July, he said:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Sudan's extra sugar production will most likely be sold on Arab, African, and internal markets, Erwa said. Linked to the presence of oil, Sudan's economy is expected to grow up to 13 per cent this year. "The Sudanese population is growing, the patterns and consumption habits of people are changing," he said.

Sudanese production could also help plug a sugar deficit in the Middle East and North Africa, equal to almost 9 million tonnes for 2006/07, according to ISO figures. This month, the ISO forecast a world sugar production surplus of 9.1 million tonnes for 2006/07. World production would equal 162.6 million tonnes, it said. "All of these factors will contribute to a very dynamic market," Erwa said.

Brazil, global leader in the production of ethanol from sugarcane is showing growing interest to cooperate with Sudan on producing biofuels. At a recent industry fair in Khartoum, representatives from Brazil's ethanol sector were present, and the director of a major Brazilian research institute involved in organising tech transfers and South-South relations said Sudan would make for an interesting partner for joint biofuel development projects (earlier post).

Vast potential
This interest no doubt stems from the country's vast untapped agricultural potential. Sudan has around 86 million hectares of arable land available for rainfed agriculture (roughly three times the size of the United Kingdom, twice the size of California), some 17 million (slightly less than 20%) is currently under cultivation. Even with rapid population growth, Sudan can easily feed its population and neighboring countries, while sustainably growing a vast amount of energy crops for biofuels.

According to the Global Agro-Ecological Data compiled by the FAO and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Sudan has around 26 million hectares of suitable land for the cultivation of raindfed sugar cane (high inputs), and 73.7 million hectares for sorghum (map, click to enlarge). Take into account that dedicated varieties of sweet sorghum have recently been bred specially for semi-arid regions and with ethanol production in mind (both the ICRISAT as well as scientists from the Texas A&M University's Agricultural Experiment Station have developed such drought-resistant, high yield sorghums; the ICRISAT variety delivers grain, forage and sugar all in one crop; the U.S. variety is meant as a biomass crop for the production of cellulosic ethanol).

Other biofuel crops with a large potential in the country are sweet potato (60.5 million ha), groundnut (79 million ha), pearl millet (75.7 million hectares) and especially soybeans - a major biodiesel feedstock - with 73 million hectares. Of the latter, Sudan only uses a tiny fraction. All data mentioned here are for high input, but rainfed cropping.

The bulk of this potential arable land is found in the Autonomous Region of Southern Sudan.

More information:

On the land data per crop, see FAO/IIASA: Data Sets of selected Global AEZ assessment results - all data are in *.excel format.

Land suitability maps per crop can be generated from the FAO Land & Water Development Division's database of Land Suitability Maps for Rainfed Cropping, which are based on the Global Agro-Ecological Zoning (GAEZ) methodology.


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