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    Chinese packaging manufacturer Livan Biodegradable Product Co. Ltd. will build plants in Alsozsolca and Edeleny in eastern Hungary at a combined cost of EUR18 million by 2009, the Hungarian economics ministry says. The plants, which will employ 800 people, are planned to produce initially 50, 000 metric tons a year of environmentally-friendly packaging material, and double that amount by a later date. Livan will use corn to manufacture packaging boxes similar in characteristics to plastic boxes for the food industry. Dow Jones Newswires - September 7, 2007.

    South Korea aims to raise biodiesel content in domestic diesel to 3 percent from the current 0.5 percent by 2012, Seoul's energy ministry said today. The government was initially set last year to impose a mandatory 5 percent blend, in line with the level targeted by the European Union by 2010, but the country's powerful refining lobby opposed the move, forcing it to push back the target, according to market sources. Reuters - September 7, 2007.

    Virent Energy Systems, Inc. announced today that it has closed a US$21 million second round of venture financing. Investor interest in Virent was driven in large part by the Company’s continued development of its innovative BioForming process beyond its traditional hydrogen and fuel gas applications and toward the production of bio-based gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels. Virent Energy Systems - September 6, 2007.

    The U.S. National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) announces that 31 models of motor vehicles will be offered in the U.S. with an E85 capable engine in 2008. Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Mercedes Benz will all offer flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) in the coming year. The NEVC expects 750,000 such FFVs will be produced in 2008. National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition - September 5, 2007.

    GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., has begun commercial operations with the start-up of a 1,500 barrel per day methanol distillation system. Methanol is an alcohol used to transesterify vegetable oils into biodiesel. The methanol production facility is a key element of GreenHunter's 105 million gallon per year biodiesel refinery, the largest in the U.S., slated for initial operations during the first quarter of 2008. PRNewswire - September 5, 2007.

    GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., has begun commercial operations with the start-up of a 1,500 barrel per day methanol distillation system. Methanol is an alcohol used to transesterify vegetable oils into biodiesel. The methanol production facility is a key element of GreenHunter's 105 million gallon per year biodiesel refinery, the largest in the U.S., slated for initial operations during the first quarter of 2008. PRNewswire - September 5, 2007.

    Spanish renewables group Abengoa released its results for the first half of 2007 financial year in which its consolidated sales were €1,393.6 million, which is a 27.9 percent increase on the previous year. Earnings after tax were €54.9 million, an 18.6 percent increase on the previous year's figure of 46.3 million euro. Abengoa is active in the bioenergy, solar and environmental services sector. Abengoa - September 4, 2007.

    Canadian hydro power developer Run of River Power Inc. has reached an agreement to buy privately owned Western Biomass Power Corp. in a $2.2 million share swap deal that could help finance development of new green sources of electricity in British Columbia. The Canadian Press - September 4, 2007.

    As of Sept. 1, a biodiesel blending mandate has come into force in the Czech Republic, requiring diesel suppliers to mix 2 per cent biodiesel into the fuel. The same rule will be obligatory for gasoline starting next year. In 2009 the biofuel ratio will grow to 3.5 percent in gasoline and 4.5 percent in diesel oil. CBW - September 3, 2007.

    Budapest's first biofuel station opens on Monday near the Pesterzsébet (District XX) Tesco hypermarket. This is the third station selling the E85 fuel containing bioethanol in Hungary, as two other stations are encouraging eco-friendly driving in Bábolna and Győr. Caboodle - September 3, 2007.

    Canadian forest products company Tembec announced that it has completed the acquisition of the assets of Chapleau Cogeneration Limited located in Chapleau, Ontario. The transaction includes a biomass fired boiler and steam turbine with an installed capacity of 7.2 megawatts. Consideration for the assets consists of a series of future annual payments to 2022, with a present value of approximately $1 million. Tembec - September 1, 2007.

    Innovative internet and cable/satellite channel CurrentTV is producing a documentary on Brazil's biofuel revolution. Biopact collegues and friends Marcelo Coelho (EthanolBrasil Blog), Henrique Oliveira (Ethablog) and Marcelo Alioti (E-Machine) provided consulting on the technical, economic, environmental and social aspects of Brazil's energy transformation. ProCana - August 31, 2007.

    Oil major BP Plc and Associated British Foods Plc won competition clearance from the European Commission on to build a plant to make transport fuel from wheat in Hull, northeast England. U.S. chemical company DuPont is also involved. Reuters UK - August 31, 2007.

    The government of the Indian state of Orissa announced its policy for biofuel production which includes a slew of incentives as well as measures to promote the establishment of energy plantations. The state aims to bring 600,000 hectares of barren and fallow land under Jatropha and Karanj. At least 2 million hectares degraded land are available in the State. The new policy's other objectives are to provide a platform for investors and entrepreneurs, market linkages and quality control measures. Newindpress - August 29, 2007.

    Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras said today it expects to reach large scale cellulosic ethanol production in 2015, with the first plant entering operations as early as 2011. Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant biological material on the planet, making up the bulk of the structure of wood and plants. In a first phase, Petrobras intends to use bagasse as a feedstock. Reuters / MacauHub- August 29, 2007.

    Seattle based Propel Biofuels, is announcing a $4.75 million first round of capital from @Ventures and Nth Power. The money will be used to help Propel set up and manage biodiesel fueling stations. BusinessWire - August 29, 2007.

    BioEnergy International, a science and technology company committed to developing biorefineries to produce fuels and specialty chemicals from renewable resources, announced today the closing of a major US$61.6 million investment that will provide funding for the Company’s three strategic initiatives: generating secure cash flow from its conventional ethanol platform, product diversification through the introduction of novel biocatalysts for the manufacture of green chemicals and biopolymers and the integration of its cellulose technology. BusinessWire - August 28, 2007.

    German company Verbio Vereinigte BioEnergie, the biggest biofuels producer in Europe, says it is considering plans to invest up to €100/US$136.5 million in a biofuel production facility in Bulgaria. The company wants the new facility to be located close to a port and Bulgaria's city of Varna on the Black Sea is one of the options under consideration. If Verbio goes through with the plan, it would produce both biodiesel and bioethanol, making Bulgaria a major source of biofuels in southeastern Europe. Verbi currently produces around 700,000 tonnes of biofuels per year. Sofia News Agency - August 27, 2007.

    Czech brown-coal-fired power plant Elektrárna Tisová (ETI), a unit of the energy producer ČEZ, could co-fire up to 40,000 tons of biomass this year, the biggest amount in the company’s history, said Martin Sobotka, ČEZ spokesman for West Bohemia. ETI burned more than 19,000 tons of biomass in the first half of 2007. The company’s plan reckoned with biomass consumption of up to 35,000 tons a year. Czech Business Weekly - August 27, 2007.

    PetroSun, Incorporated announced recently that it has formed PetroSun BioFuels Mexico to establish algae-to-biofuel operations in the State of Sonora, Mexico. PetroSun BioFuels Mexico will enter into joint venture agreements to develop algae cultivation farms and extraction plants in Sonora and southern Arizona that will produce algal oil, algae biomass products and excess electricity for the Mexican and U.S. markets. MarketWire - August 27, 2007.

    China's Yunnan Province hopes to reach an annual output of 2 million tons (approx. 417 million gallons) of fuel ethanol by 2010, according to the province's fuel ethanol industry development plan released recently by the Yunnan Economic and Trade Commission, state media report. Interfax China - August 23, 2007.

    Seven companies have teamed up to create Kazakhstan's first Biofuel Association. Its aim is to integrate interested parties for creating favorable conditions to have the country’s biofuel industry developed. An initiator and coordinator of the Association is the National Holding KazAgro, the Agriculture Ministry’s press service informs. KazInform - August 23, 2007.

    Canadian forest products company Tembec today announced that it has completed the acquisition of the assets of Chapleau Cogeneration Limited located in Chapleau, Ontario. The transaction closed on August 15 and includes a biomass fired boiler and steam turbine with an installed capacity of 7.2 megawatts. Consideration for the assets consists of a series of future annual payments to 2022, with a present value of approximately $1 million. Newswire Canada - August 22, 2007.

    Taiwan's representative to Brazil, Chou Shu-yeh, is urging Taiwan's government and private enterprises to invest in Brazil's biomass energy sector. Chou was speaking at a workshop on global investment and trade opportunities in Taipei. RTi - August 22, 2007.

    An algae-to-biofuels startup by the name of Inventure Chemical has raised about $1.5 million to continue its development of a chemical process that turns algae into biodiesel and ethanol. One of the biggest backers of the company is Imperium Renewables, a biodiesel producer. Seattle Post Intelligencer - August 22, 2007.

    The government of India's Karnataka state has approved the blending of six million litres of ethanol with diesel for use as fuel in State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) vehicles. Automotive World - August 21, 2007.

    VeraSun Energy Corporation, one of America's largest ethanol producers, announced that it closed on its acquisition with ASAlliances Biofuels, LLC for three ethanol plants with a combined annual production capacity of approximately 330 million gallons (1.25 billion liters) per year. VeraSun - August 21, 2007.

    Fujitsu develops a biodegradable laptop chassis from corn-starch bioplastic. The material reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 15% compared to a chassis made from petroleum-based plastics. CNET Asia - August 20, 2007.

    India's Rana Sugars Ltd has decided to set up a new plant for producing ethanol in Uttar Pradesh with an estimated investment of €9 to 10.9 (US$12.2 to 14.7). The facility will have a capacity of 180,000 liters per year and will generate, besides ethanol, 26MW of carbon-neutral power from bagasse. Economic Times India - August 20, 2007.

    Prominent pro-democracy activists staged a rare protest in Myanmar's biggest city Sunday, marching against a massive recent fuel price hike. "We are staging this performance to reflect the hardship our people are facing due to the government's fuel price hike," said Min Ko Naing, a leader of the 88 Generation Students' Group. Myanmar's ruling military junta imposed a surprise 100 percent hike on fuel at state-owned gas stations on Wednesday. The move was followed by increases in bus fares and commodity prices. The Star - August 19, 2007.

    Canada's Cavendish Farms, one of the country's largest food processing companies is to build a biogas plant to recycle spent cooking oils, starch and sludge from its waste-water plant to fuel its potato processing operation. Use of the carbon-neutral biofuel will limit the amount of bunker C fuel oil currently in use by the company. The plant, expected to be ready for operation by next fall, has received a $14-million loan from the Province of Prince Edward Island. CBC - August 18, 2007.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Policy and regulatory framework crucial for CCS success

In a world that continues to rely on coal as an energy source, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) has been embraced by many as a promising option for reducing rising CO2 emissions and combating global warming. Yet use of CCS on a large scale raises a mountain of legal and regulatory questions. New research published in the latest issue of Environmental Science & Technology suggests that these issues need as much attention as the technology itself and puts forth several areas where the scientific underpinnings of regulatory and legal decision making can be strengthened.

Potential leakage routes and possible countermeasures for CO2 injected into saline aquifers (click to enlarge). Source: IPCC.
At the Biopact, we track technological and policy developments on CCS because the technique can be applied to bioenergy, in which case radically carbon-negative energy systems emerge that take historic carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere. Such systems are obviously much safer than CCS used on fossil fuels (because if CO2 leakage were to occur on gas originating from carbon-neutral biomass, there would be no net contribution of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere; leaks of CO2 from fossil fuels would be highly problematic). It is interesting to see how the legal and regulatory question marks surrounding CCS - and especially those dealing with the management of leakage risks - would change if the technology were to be applied to biofuels.

More importantly, in order to promote carbon-negative energy systems, proactive policy initiatives and even lobbying are needed. Else, CCS will only be looked at in the context of fossil fuels. During a recent EU public consultation on CCS, Biopact suggested EU decision makers look at 'Bioenergy with Carbon Storage' (BECS) as the safest way forward for large-scale initial tests with the technology (quicknote on the issue here).

Currently there is only one organisation working towards the development of concrete policies for the implementation of BECS, namely the 'Abrupt Climate Change Strategy' (ACCS) group, which grew out of the G8 climate change initiative of 2005. ACCS is designing a precautionary strategy based on bioenergy to be prepared for potential abrupt climate change becoming imminent. The associated Bioenergy Future Group is devoted to developing action-oriented steps to implement BECS.

In any case, according to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers, the science, technology and policy communities must urgently enter into a dialogue on CCS.
If there is a real conversation between people on the policy side and people on the science side, then we can begin to develop some guidelines for these relatively new, large-scale CCS projects. Holding off addressing the policy issues until the science is set is going to hold up the process. - Julio Friedmann of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The concept behind CCS is simple, the authors write: capture CO2 emissions and inject them in a supercritical state into deep geologic formations, where the carbon is likely to stay put for hundreds of thousands of years. Reservoirs for such geologic sequestration are plentiful throughout the world; the best injection spots are deep saline aquifers, depleted oil and gas formations, and coal seams.

Yet an abundance of legal and regulatory issues arise from the many phases of a CCS project, which include capturing, transporting, and injecting the CO2 and closing a site. Issues also include responsibility for possible, but not necessarily likely, CO2 leakage if the original injecting company has shut down, ownership of the land and minerals in the land above a reservoir, and ownership of the pores filled by injected CO2. Guidelines for monitoring leakage and accounting for the gas in a regulatory emissions cap-and-trade program need to be hashed out, the authors say. These types of issues are compounded by varying state rules governing underground rights and injection. Before CCS can be used on a broad scale, investors and the public need certainty and assurances that CSS will be done safely and efficiently.

Managing leakage risks
In the new ES&T paper, the authors focus on two areas of research: surface leakage of CO2 and groundwater quality. They present two case studies of analog sites in which an injection well or abandoned well failed in conjunction with a large volume of naturally occurring CO2. Leakage can occur, notes coauthor Elizabeth Wilson of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, when CO2 migrates to the surface through abandoned well bores or through faults or fractures in the rock. Yet current regulations don't cover human and ecological risks from this leakage:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Ensuring that protocols are in place to deal with such an event is key to CCS's success. "CCS must be integrated into a larger regime, where public perception is very important," Wilson says.

John Venezia of the nonprofit think tank World Resources Institute (WRI) agrees, saying, "What we don't want to do is to start off with a project without having uniform standards. If there is some leakage down the line, it will generate a very bad perception about CCS, and people won't trust it." WRI is working with a diverse group ranging from academics to insurers to devise uniform protocols for the many stages of CCS. Although CCS is a very promising technology, it is just "one of many arrows in the quiver" that can be used against global warming, Venezia adds.

Biopact would stress that - again, if used on carbon dioxide from carbon-neutral biomass - CCS becomes one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against climate change. Not just "one of many arrows". It is for this reason that, a few years ago, some scientists have called for it within the context of the potential threat of 'abrupt' and 'dangerous' climate change, which would require a complete moratorium on the use fossil fuels and a radical switch to carbon-negative systems. On the basis of more recent research, some are meanwhile warning that we may actually already be facing such a dark scenario (earlier post). Thus, BECS systems are more needed than ever. A major effort is needed to get this message across to decision makers.

When it comes to CCS policies as they are looked at in the context of fossil fuels: several government agencies are already working on incorporating science into policy development. Sean Plasynski of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Energy Technology Laboratory notes that DOE's 10-year-old program, funded at $100 million for the current fiscal year, has several small CO2 injection pilot projects in place. The DOE has seven regional partnerships in its Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships program that involve 350 state agencies, universities, and private companies spanning 41 states and 4 Canadian provinces. The observations from these pilots will support policy and regulatory issues, Plasynski says.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a smaller yet significant program dealing with the permits needed before a new injection site begins operations, the authors note. EPA staff are developing permits for DOE's CO2 injection pilots using the long-standing underground injection well program developed for hazardous and other wastes; this might be expanded nationally to include CO2 geological sequestration, Wilson says.

Elizabeth J. Wilson, S. Julio Friedmann, and Melisa F. Pollak, "Research for Deployment: Incorporating Risk, Regulation, and Liability for Carbon Capture and Sequestration" [*abstract], Environ. Sci. Technol., ASAP Article, Web Release Date: July 25, 2007, DOI:10.1021/es062272t S0013-936X(06)02272-3

Peter Read and Jonathan Lermit,"Bio-energy with carbon storage (BECS): A sequential decision approach to the threat of abrupt climate change", Energy, Volume 30, Issue 14, November 2005, Pages 2654-2671, DOI:10.1016/j.energy.2004.07.003

Environmental Science & Technology: Linking science with new policies for CCS - July 25, 2007.

Abrupt Climate Change Strategy


David B. Benson said...

Of course sequestering biocoal in abandoned mines, carbon landfills, etc., appears to be essentially risk-free.

8:09 PM  

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