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    Norway-based renewable energy firm Global Green One has agreed to set up a € 101.6 million bioethanol plant in Békéscsaba (southeast Hungary), with more facilities planned for Kalocsa, Szombathely and Kõszeg, the latter of which was already a target for a €25 million plant in May this year. The Békéscsaba plant would process 200,000 tonnes of maize per year, employing around 100 people. The logistics part of the facility would also create 100 jobs. The company expects the factory to generate €65 million in revenues each year. Portfolio - July 25, 2007.

    A Canadian firm, Buchanan Renewable Energies, is to begin an investment into Liberia's biomass industry that will grow to US$20 million in October and offer 300 jobs by end of the year. The company will start shipping 90 major pieces of equipment to Liberia by the end of August. Daily Observer (Monrovia) - July 24, 2007.

    KNM Process Systems Sdn Bhd, has secured a RM122 million (€26/$36m) order to build a biodiesel plant in Pahang, Malaysia, for Mission Biofuels Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Australian biofuels company Mission Biofuels Ltd. The plant will have a biodiesel output of 750 tonnes per day and glycerine output of 82 tonnes per day. Malaysia Business Times - July 24, 2007.

    AlgoDyne Ethanol Energy Inc. confirms that its retail partner, Canadian Green Fuels, has entered into an agreement with Cansource BioFuels to open a new biodiesel production facility in Mayerthorpe Alberta. The deal will see the construction and development of a community based, integrated crushing and biodiesel facility to process 10 million litres of ASTM certified canola based biodiesel which will be scaled up to produce 40million litres by 2010. BusinessWire - July 23, 2007.

    The Center for Management Technology announces the second Biomass-to-Liquids Technology conference will take place in Vienna this year, from 12 to 13 September. The current state of BTL-technologies will be presented and discussed. Biomass-to-Liquids conversion pathways are seen by many as promising avenues into the world of second generation biofuels that relies on the use of a broad variety of possible biomass feedstocks. CMT - July 23, 2007.

    Gulf Ethanol Corporation, a Houston-based energy company, announced today that it has initiated negotiations with representatives of government and industry in Uruguay. Discussions, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, centered on the synergy between Gulf Ethanol's interest in exploiting the potential of sorghum as a non-food fuel stock for ethanol production and the ideal conditions for growing the crop in Uruguay. The company criticizes the use of food crops like corn for ethanol in the U.S. and is seeking alternatives. Yahoo Press Release - July 20, 2007.

    Dutch company Capella Capital N.V. announces its investment in BiogasPark N.V. and acquires a 20 % stake upon the foundation of the company. The remaining shares are held by the management and strategic investors. BiogasPark N.V. will invest in the field of renewable energy and primarily focuses on financing, purchasing and the maintenance of biogas plant facilities. Ad Hoc News - July 20, 2007.

    Bioenergy company Mascoma Corp. is to build the world's first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Michigan where it will collaborate with Michigan State University. The $100 million plant will rely on the biochemical, enzymatic process that breaks down biomass to convert it to sugars. One of the factors that attracted Mascoma to Michigan was the recent $50 million federal grant MSU received to study biofuels in June. MSU will help in areas such as pretreatment technology for cellulosic ethanol production and energy crops that can be utilized by the plant. The State News - July 20, 2007.

    PetroChina, one of China's biggest oil companies, aims to invest RMB 300 million (€28.7/US$39.6m) in biofuel production development plans. A special fund is also going to be jointly set up by PetroChina and the Ministry of Forestry to reduce carbon emissions. Two thirds of the total investment will be channeled into forestry and biofuel projects in the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Hebei, the remainder goes to creating a China Green Carbon Foundation, jointly managed by PetroChina and the State Forestry Administration. China Knowledge - July 19, 2007.

    Netherlands-based oil, gas, power and chemical industries service group Bateman Litwin N.V. announces it has signed an agreement to acquire Delta-T Corporation, a leading US-based bioethanol technology provider, with a fast growing engineering, procurement and construction division for a total consideration of US$45 million in cash and 11.8 million new ordinary shares in Bateman Litwin. Bateman Litwin - July 18, 2007.

    TexCom, Inc. announced today that it has signed a letter of intent to acquire Biodiesel International Corp. (BIC), and is developing a plan to build an integrated oilseed crushing and biodiesel production facility in Paraguay. The facility, as it is currently contemplated, would process 2,000 metric tons of oil seeds per day, yielding approximately 136,000 metric tons (approximately 39 Million Gallons) of biodiesel and 560,000 metric tons of soy meal pellets per year. Initial feedstock will consist mainly of soybeans that are grown in the immediate area of the proposed production plant in the Provinces of Itapua and Alto Parana. MarketWire - July 18, 2007.

    Spanish power company Elecnor announced that it will build Spain's biggest biodiesel production plant for €70 million (US$96.48 million). The plant, in the port of Gijon in northern Spain, will be ready in 22 months and will produce up to 500,000 tonnes of biodiesel a year from vegetable oil. The plant will be one of the world's biggest. Spain has decided to impose mandatory blending of biofuels with conventional fossil fuels as part of European Union efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Elecnor [*Spanish] - July 18, 2007.

    The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) conducted a feasibility study to determine the most economical solutions to provide biomass energy to the isolated Chugachmiut Tribal Community in the village of Port Graham, Alaska, located on the Kenai Peninsula about 180 miles southwest of Anchorage. The village is only accessible by air or water, making traditional fossil fuel sources expensive to deliver and alternative forms of energy difficult to implement. The case study based on decentralised bioenergy offers interesting parallels to what would be needed to provide energy to the developing world's huge population that lives in similarly isolated conditions. EERC - July 18, 2007.

    According to a basic market report by Global Industries Inc., world biodiesel sales are expected to exceed 4.7 billion gallons (17.8 billion liters) by 2010. Though Europe, with a share estimated at 84.16% in 2006, constitutes the largest market, and will continue to do so for the coming years, major growth is expected to emanate from the United States. The automobile applications market for biodiesel, with an estimated share of 55.73% in 2006 constitutes the largest as well as the fastest growing end use application. Other applications independently analyzed include the Mining Applications market and the Marine Applications market. PRWeb - July 18, 2007.

    O2Diesel Corporation announced that it has received the regulatory approvals necessary to start delivering its proprietary diesel ethanol blended fuel, O2Diesel, in the French market. The approvals pave the way for O2Diesel to move forward into the next stage of its European market development strategy by commencing deliveries to a number of targeted fleets in France. MarketWire - July 17, 2007.

    The BBC World Service is hosting a series of programmes on the global obesity pandemic. Over the coming two weeks a range of documentaries and discussions will be held on the obesity time-bomb that is growing all over the West, but also in the developing world. In North America, a quarter of people are now morbidly obese, 60% is overweight, and one in three children will become obese. The epidemic is spreading rapidly to China and India. BBC World Service - July 16, 2007.

    A new report from Oregon State University shows the biofuels industry is on track to be a $2.5 billion chunk of the state's economy within 20 years. The study identifies 80 potential biodiesel, ethanol and biomass facilities which could produce a combined 400 million gallons (1.5 billion liters) per year of ethanol and another 315 million gallons (1.2 billion liters) of biodiesel. On an oil equivalent basis, this comes down to around 38,000 barrels per day. Oregon State University - July 16, 2007.

    Jatropha biodiesel manufacturer D1 Oils has appointed a leading plant scientist to its board of directors. Professor Christopher Leaver, Sibthorpian professor of plant science and head of the plant sciences department at Oxford University, has joined the Teesside company as a non-executive director. Professor Leaver, who was awarded a CBE in 2000, is a leading expert in the molecular and biochemical basis of plant growth and differentiation. D1Oils Plc - July 16, 2007.

    Panama and South Africa are set to cooperate on biofuels. A delegation consisting of vice-minister of Foreign Affairs Azis Pahad, of Finance, Jubulai Moreketi and of Finance, met with Panama's vice-chancellor Ricardo Durán to discuss joint biodiesel and ethanol production and distribution. Panama's goal is to become a hub for internationally traded bioenergy, making use of the strategic position of the Canal. La Prensa Gráfica [*Spanish] - July 14, 2007.

    Spanish investors are studying the opportunity to invest in agro-industrial projects in Morocco aimed at producing biofuel from the Jatropha plant. Morocco’s Minister for Energy and Mines, Mohammed Boutaleb, said Moroccan authorities are willing to provide the necessary land available to them, provided that the land is not agricultural, is located in semi-arid regions, and that the investors agree to use water-saving agricultural techniques, such as drip-feed irrigation. Magharebia - July 14, 2007.

    Philippine Basic Petroleum Corp. plans to raise as much as 2.8 billion pesos (€44.4/US$61.2 million) through a follow-on offering and loans to finance a 200,000 liter per day bio-ethanol plant in the province of Zamboanga del Norte. The move into biofuels comes in anticipation of the implementation of RA 9367 or the Philippines biofuels law. RA 9367 mandates five percent bioethanol blending into gasoline by 2009, and 10 percent by 2011. Manila Bulletin - July 14, 2007.

    The Michigan Economic Development Corporation last week awarded a $3.4 million grant to redevelop the former Pfizer research facility in Holland into a bioeconomy research and commercialization center. Michigan State University will use the facility to develop technologies that derive alternative energy from agri-based renewable resources. Michigan.org - July 13, 2007.

    Fuel prices increased three times in Mozambique this year due to high import costs. For this reason, the country is looking into biofuels as an alternative. Mozambique's ministries of agriculture and energy presented a study showing that more than five million hectares of land can be used sustainably in the production of crops that would produce biodiesel fuels. The first phase of a biofuel implementation plan was also presented, identifying the provinces of Inhambane, Zambezia, Nampula and Cabo Delgado as the first to benefit. News24 (Capetown) - July 12, 2007.

    The Malaysian Oleochemical Manufacturers Group (MOMG) has urged the government for incentives and grants to companies to encourage the development of new uses and applications for glycerine, the most important byproduct of biodiesel. Global production of glycerine is currently about one million tonnes. For every 10 tonnes of oil processed into biodiesel, one tonne of glycerine emerges as a by-product. Bernama - July 12, 2007.

    BioDiesel International AG has acquired 70 per cent of the shares in Lignosol, a Salzburg based company that is making promising progress in Biomass-to-Liquids conversion techniques. The purchase price is in the single-digit million Euro range. ACN - July 10, 2007.

    Gay & Robinson Inc. and Pacific West Energy LLC announced today a partnership to develop an ethanol plant in Hawaii based on sugarcane feedstocks. The plant's capacity is around 12 million gallons (45 million liters) per year. The partnership called Gay & Robinson Ag-Energy LLC, will also ensure the continuation of the Gay & Robinson agricultural enterprise, one of the oldest in Hawaii. Approximately 230 jobs will be preserved, and a large area of West Kauai will be maintained in sustainable agriculture. Business Wire - July 10, 2007.

    Water for Asian Cities (WAC), part of UN-Habitat, is extending partial financial support for the construction of several biogas plants across the Kathmandu valley and develop them as models for municipal waste management. The first biogas plants will be built in Khokna, Godavari, Kalimati, Patan, Tribhuvan University premises, Amrit Science College premises and Thimi. The Himalayan Times - July 09, 2007.

    EnviTec Biogas's planned initial public offering has roused 'enormous' interest among investors and the shares have been oversubscribed, according to sources. EnviTec has set the IPO price range at €42-52 a share, with the subscription period running until Wednesday. EnviTec last year generated sales of €100.7 million, with earnings before interest and tax of €18.5 million. Forbes - July 09, 2007.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

EU study looks at pros and cons of 20 most promising alternative fuels

A number of alternative fuel technology options for road and air transport have been developed in recent years. While most of them have been extensively discussed separately, the information available is usually fragmented, being either too scientific or simplistic in its presentation, and generally not comparable. An exception is the European Union's Joint Research Centre's comprehensive well-to-wheel (WTW) study for more than 70 different fuel paths and propulsion technologies, produced in 2006 (earlier post).

Now STOA, the European Parliament's Scientific Technology Options Assessment body, has published an inventory [*.pdf] of 20 of the most promising options, which are clustered in five technologies: hydrogen and fuel cells, battery electric vehicles, hybrid technology, biofuels and natural gas. The catalogue provides a comparative overview of the pros and cons of each of these technologies.

Energy security and 'peak oil'
The authors state that until recently, alternative fuels were mainly encouraged because of their potential to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But since the beginning of this decade, the development has changed – issues of energy security, and especially security of oil supply, returned on the agendas of policy-makers in the European Union. The general finiteness of fossil resources and the peaking of world oil resources are at the centre of many energy-related discussions. This is due to a number of current developments.

The recently surging oil demand in large economies such as China, India or the USA has reduced spare capacity. The instability in some key producer countries (Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria) has continued and increased, especially after the events of September 11, 2001 and the following military actions. At the same time, the oil infrastructure has become a new target for – and more vulnerable to – terrorist attacks. As a result of these trends, oil prices rose from a historical low of around $10/bbl in 1999 to well above $70/bbl in 2006, with new records in 2007.

For these reasons - climate change, 'peak oil' and energy security - alternatives to petroleum and fossil fuels are now more needed than ever. 20 of the most promising fuel production paths and propulsion technologies were included in the study (table, click to enlarge).

For each fuel/propulsion technology, (1) the 'strategic impact' was assessed as reflected by factors such as their effect on the environment and human health, the capacity to maintain or improve Europe’s energy security and competitiveness; (2) deliverability, was assessed by looking at the current development status, technology potential and steadiness of industrial activities surrounding the fuel, its cost competitiveness compared to established technologies, and the number and/or severity of other barriers to commercialisation; finally, the (3) political awareness on the technologies and fuels was analysed.


Focusing first on road transport, the study starts by looking at hydrogen which, when combined with fuel cells, seems to be a promising technology alternative. However, some serious technological problems remain unsolved, including for instance questions concerning the performance of fuel cells, and the production of large amounts of 'clean' hydrogen. Recently, the only affordable way of large-scale hydrogen production has been via steam-reformation from natural gas. From a mid-term perspective, this route might support the market penetration of hydrogen and of fuel cells, notes the study. The crucial point is that, in this case, hydrogen would be derived from a fossil fuel source.

Other routes are also being discussed, including the production of hydrogen from renewable sources (wind, photovoltaic, solar thermal, water) via electrolysis. This is often regarded as a kind of silver bullet since it enables close to zero emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). "But it is not clear if, at which time, and in which regions the production of hydrogen from renewable sources will be feasible at larger scales and at reasonable costs", says the study.

A 'clean' production of hydrogen from nuclear power is feasible as well, but the drawbacks here are the finiteness of uranium sources and the acceptance of the use of nuclear power. In terms of climate security, the study predicts that the coal route will only be suitable if it is combined with CO2 sequestration and storage (CSS):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Assessing the use of hybrid technology, the study finds that this option offers the possibility to save energy and emissions by using established technologies and infrastructures. Whatever fuel and propulsion technology will be dominant in 20 to 30 years, the authors of the study predict that that hybrid technology will be part of the propulsion system. It is an important component of most fuel cell concepts and there seems to be a high potential to further improve the efficiency of conventional fuels.

Fully electric vehicles
The development of pure electric cars is also explored. Here the study remarks that the commercialisation of such vehicles will strongly depend on the development of suitable batteries. In spite of decades of research and development activities, decisive technological breakthroughs regarding batteries are not in sight. "Yet, a surprising breakthrough in battery technology is not completely impossible and would surely entail radical changes to both the transport and the energy sector", say the authors of the study.

No inventory on alternative fuel sources would be complete without an assessment of biofuels - currently the only commercially feasible alternatives to petroleum fuels. The bio-based fuels take up most of the space in the report because there are so many pathways to producing them (overview, click to enlarge).

While recognising the ease at which so-called first generation fuels, mainly biodiesel and bioethanol, can be produced today, the study sees second generation fuels (biomass-to-liquids, cellulosic ethanol) as the most the way forward over the longer term. Unlike their ancestors, second generation biofuels can be made using the whole plant and from a wide variety of biomass sources. Biogas as a transport fuel as well is seen as having the potential to contribute to climate and energy security. Blends with natural gas are imaginable.
It is estimated that roughly between 20% and 30% of EU27 road transport fuels in 2030 could be covered by biofuels derived from European biomass (e.g. energy crops, agricultural and forestry residues, organic fraction of municipal solid waste).
But to meet the continent's fuel needs, it is likely that biomass will have to be imported from abroad. This should be critically discussed, argues the study. Note that the report was written before the EU's International Conference on Biofuels (July 5-6, Brussels), where such imports and trade were extensively analysed.

Natural gas
Natural gas technology (CNG) is feasible in the transport sector and has the potential to bring at least mid term improvements in terms of energy security and GHG emissions – whereby it is crucial that real 'gas-engines' are being developed. But in particular its possible contribution to energy security strongly depends on the overall demand on natural gas. It is likely, that CNG vehicles will become at least established for niche applications (e.g. in larger fleets, in inner cities). Autogas (LPG) is a relatively uncomplicated technology. It offers environmental benefits at relatively low costs. It is becoming rather popular in several European countries.
Since both CNG and LPG are based on fossil feedstock they must be considered as bridging technologies. They might help to pave the way for cleaner gaseous fuels such as hydrogen, bio-methane or DME.

Alternative aviation fuels
Regarding the air transport sector, the study notes that presently there is no alternative propulsion system to the gas turbine in sight. Research on alternative fuels and alternative fuel sources as well as on new propulsion technologies is in early stages. Yet, the pros and cons of biofuels and hydrogen for aviation are discussed in the report.

On biomass-based aviation fuels, the report says that kerosene could well be derived from biomass. Biomass derived admixtures to kerosin would be possible.

But besides the general restrictions, such as available acreage or energy efficiency, for aviation operational and safety requirements are much tighter than for road transport. One aspect in this context is that the fuel still must be perfectly liquid at low temperatures in great heights. Presently, there are no biofuels established for aviation (but hey are under development). Taken from the technical side it should be no problem to introduce them to the market as admixtures to fossil kerosene; similar to the road transport sector.

However, deliverability is strongly restricted by the absolute amount of available biomass as well as by the use of biomass in other sectors, such as the road transport sector or the generations of heat and power. It looks as if there would be easier and more efficient ways of making use of the existing biomass potential. In spite of innovative technologies, such as so-called second generation biofuels, it is not likely that the amount of available biomass will be large enough to serve road transport and air transport simultaneously, the report says. Biopact begs to differ, given a large number of studies on global biomass potentials. Imports are the way forward.

When it comes to hydrogen in airplanes, in principle, conventional gas turbines only need to be slightly adapted for the combustion of hydrogen. The major problem is storing large amounts of hydrogen in the airplane. This has a major impact on the general design of the airplane there have been no prototypes constructed yet. Furthermore, from today’s point of view it seems to be difficult to supply a large airport with the immense amounts of hydrogen that would be needed to serve the entire demand.

The report concludes that itt is not likely that hydrogen will be used in air transport before it will have been established in the road transport sector. It is hypothetical but it would be interesting to see to what extent new designs of aircrafts would offer chances to implement new propulsion technologies. For example, it is easier to install a cryonic hydrogen tank in a “flying wing” than in a conventional airplane.

The technologies compiled in the analysis are all promising but all have clearly weak points and bottlenecks. Each single technological pathway faces difficulties in terms of serving the complete future fuel demand of the EU27. Innovations will be needed in order to tackle the three central challenges in this field: climate change, energy security and competitive challenges.

However, in the long run the predicted phase-out of oil would make business-as-usual impossible for all oil-based technological contexts. A phase-out of oil would, at the same time, exert pressure on European innovation regimes – “something new” has to come. Policy strategies should remain flexible and open enough to support ground-breaking innovations.

European Parliament, Scientific Technology Options Assessment: Alternative Technology Options for Road and Air Transport (IP/A/STOA/SC/2005-179) [*.pdf] - June 2007.

CORDIS: Study assesses pros and cons of alternative fuel technologies - July 25, 2007.


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